A new home for the holidays

Charleswood Rotary Club sponsors Ukrainian refugee family


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The Veriasov family, Kate, 29, (centre), Dima, 28, (left) and their two young sons Dima, 4, Timothy, 18 months, and Kate’s mother Larysa, 61, are greeted by Mandy Kwasnica of the Charleswood Rotary Club at the Winnipeg, her husband and two children at the airport on Dec. 4.


A young family fleeing the war in Ukraine is settling into a new life in Winnipeg thanks to efforts by the Charleswood Rotary Club.

The Veriasovs — Dima, 28, Kate, 29, and sons Dima Jr., 4, and Timothy, 18 months, and Kate’s mother Larysa Zelenukhina, 61 — arrived at Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport on Dec. 4 to a warm welcome from Rotary members, local politicians and other supporters.

“It was great,” Dima said. “They greeted us with smiles, positive energy … Sincere emotions.”

The Charleswood Rotary Club launched its Bridge of Hope Ukraine campaign earlier this year to help families fleeing the war-torn country. Bridge of Hope Ukraine aims to help refugees complete the necessary paperwork to get to Canada, and then help them get settled — or, help refugees who’ve already arrived secure the basic necessities.

In October of last year, Mandy Kwasnica, past president of the Charleswood Rotary Club, and her husband, adopted two children, Artem, 13, and Anya, 11, from a Ukrainian orphanage. Dima’s father and mother are the centre’s directors.

“Before the war broke out, we were probably one of the last few adoptions out of Ukraine into Canada,” Kwasnica said.

As news of Russia’s war spread, Kwasnica reached out to her contacts in Ukraine to see if she and the Rotary Club could help. Kwasnica found out the Ukrainian government had instructed the orphanage to move to Poland, for safety. The Veriasovs, too, left the country by bus.

“We didn’t really have any place to stay for more than a month. We switched seven apartments. It was really hard for us because we have two little children,” Dima said.

Nearly nine months in Poland and a maze of immigration, refugee and citizenship paperwork later, the Veriasovs departed for Canada. They are currently living with a host family in Headingley.

Though the experience of settling into a new country has ushered in many firsts, Dima said they are settling in nicely and feel supported.

The Charleswood Rotary Club was able to support the Veriasov family through fundraisers, including the Breezy Bend Country Club dinner in April. Direct donations helped, too. To date, the rotary club has raised $40,000 for the initiative.

“It has absolutely opened my eyes to how generous people are — and seeing the goodness in people,” Kwasnica said.

The Charleswood Rotary Club plans to continue boosting the Veriasov family and hopes to bring over other Ukrainian families.

“A lot of these families coming over, they aren’t asking very much. Some of them are coming from amazing jobs and they left everything behind,” Kwasnica said.

The club put out a call on social media asking for furniture donations, and within two weeks, two apartments were fully furnished with pieces left over. There’s a link on the Bridge of Hope Ukraine website (www.bridgeofhopeukraine.com) where Ukrainian refugee families can request specific furniture donations and a link for those who’d like to donate.

For more information about the Charleswood Rotary Club, go to www.portal.clubrunner.ca/1000

Katlyn Streilein

Katlyn Streilein
Community Journalist

Katlyn Streilein was a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review.

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