A dozen South Cariboo residents spent their long weekend helping the Kozakovs fix up their new home.
The Kozakovs are a refugee family from Ukraine who came to the South Cariboo three months ago after fleeing the ongoing war in their home country. They’ve been helped by the Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy, which organized the work bee to get their new home in 100 Mile House ready for them to move into.
“It was a little bit run down on the inside so it needed some holes to be patched up, a fresh coat of paint and some new flooring,” Melissa Hermiston, the CCPL’s marketing and social awareness co-ordinator, said. “We just had to spruce it up and make it really nice and fresh for them. Community members volunteered their time and materials to get this work done.”
On Saturday, Viacheslav and his wife Oleksandra helped paint their new home with their two daughters, Diana and Anastasia. The Kosakovs were visibly happy and excited at the prospect of living right in the heart of 100 Mile House.
Viacheslav, 33, said he’s found the South Cariboo to be a safe and welcoming place for his family. When the Russian Army first invaded Ukraine in March he said the constant rocket bombardments and air raid sirens terrified his daughters.
He and Oleksandra made the difficult decision to leave to find somewhere their children could grow up in peace.
Watching the community come together to not only find them a house but also help fix it up is overwhelming for Viacheslav.
“Wow, it’s cool. I’m happy, my children are happy and they’re not scared. We see the future is good and I’m very excited,” Viacheslav said. “There are wonderful people here in Canada.”
His oldest daughter Diana, 10, shares his optimism. She said she loves to paint even if she was mostly painting the walls white rather than her favourite colour purple.
“Today we are having a big paint for all our house. I think I will ask if my parents if I can do a small rainbow in my room,” Diana said. “I’m happy and I’m excited.”
Diana said it was nice to have so much help settling in, noting that without the extra hands it would have probably taken her family a year to do all the work themselves. As Diana painted the walls of her new home she was quick to tell jokes and ask plenty of questions of Kimberly Vance-Lundsbye who she dubbed “the big boss.”
Vance-Lundsbye, the CCPL’s immigrant settlement support worker, was amused by her new title. She led the renovation efforts and said that around 1,000 hours of volunteer work was needed to get the house ready to go.
“It happened really fast. We only started working on this two weeks ago but I kind of counted on the community coming out and volunteering for this cause,” Vance-Lundsbye said. “People have been really generous with their time.”
The community’s generosity extended to donating items including furniture, kitchenware and household appliances to the Kozakovs. Hermiston said since the initial call for donations was put out her phone has been ringing off the hook with people wanting to help.
If all goes according to plan the Kozakovs will move into their new house this Saturday and will be joined by two additional Ukrainian families by the end of the year. Hermiston said the building has three separate suites and will have enough room for everyone.
“It will be a nice support system for them because they’ll be in a little community of fellow Ukrainians,” Hermiston said.
Vance-Lundsbye said the Kozakovs and the other families will still need community support for a few months to come. English language tutors will be needed and she welcomes anyone with experience to reach out to the CCPL.
Both Hermiston and Vance-Lundsbye agreed that it’s rewarding to be able to help new Canadians navigate Canada. Hermiston said anyone still looking to donate can reach out to her at email@example.com or 250-644-5869. She encourages the community to donate gift cards to Save-On-Foods and FreshCo so the families have access to fresh and healthy food.
“When you think about it, it’s kind of a way to remind ourselves to be grateful for the country we live in. That’s what Thanksgiving in my family is all about. We’re thankful to live in a peaceful and free country where we don’t have to worry about bombs and air raids,” Hermiston said. “It’s a coincidence it landed on Thanksgiving weekend but that’s a nice little underlining factor.”