WESTLOCK – Several weeks after fleeing the war in Ukraine and arriving in Alberta, the Vovk family are expressing their gratitude for the warm welcome and support they’ve received.
“All people are very kind here. We met some families who have Ukrainian roots … and sometimes we meet each other (and) speak (about) different topics,” said Yuriy Vovk, noting their time so far in Thorhild. “Last Friday was our first Canada Day and we celebrated together.”
Yuriy and Lilia Vovk and their three children — Rostylslav 10, Viktoria 3, and nine-month-old Volodymyr are from the city of Drohobych, Ukraine, close to the Polish border. They arrived in Alberta May 20 and have settled into their new home in Thorhild.
The Vovks were in Westlock with two of their three children July 8, for a visit at Smithfield Lodge to thank residents for their generosity and recent donation, while their eldest son Rostylslav was away at summer camp.
Vovk said they have been overwhelmed by all the help and support from the local community as well as the Canadian and provincial governments.
“We feel the support every day. It’s a huge support for us in different (areas) — for school, for children and for different (aspects) of our family. We are really surprised,” he said.
Residents at both the Smithfield and Pembina lodges wanted to show their support for the family and recently raised $2,489 for the Vovks, through a number of fundraising initiatives. The money was raised from the sale of paintings, pins and wreaths residents created earlier this spring.
“All that money (collected) came from our residents and then our residents also gave donations of money as well,” said Smithfield activity director Judy Burns. “They’re so giving on everything that they do.
“At first we thought we would just combine with all of our other lodges in Homeland Housing and give to Ukraine,” she added. “But once the families started coming to Canada, it was so much nicer to give it to people that were here and just starting out.”
Residents gave a warm welcome to the family on Friday and listened as they spoke about coming to Canada and their hopes to soon see an end to the war. As a thank you for their generosity, Lilia Vovk shared three Ukrainian songs, which she sang for residents, staff, and guests in attendance.
Smithfield Lodge resident Anna Kowalik, originally from Poland, was one of many residents who greeted the family and welcomed them to the region.
“The singing was beautiful,” said Kowalik. “I love that they’re here.”
Vovk spoke of some differences in adjusting to life in Canada but said as difficult as it was to move here, he and the family have settled into their home well. They regularly communicate and stay in touch with friends and family back home.
“My son Rostyslav and my father are best friends. Of course, it’s hard (to leave) but our parents understand that first, we must think about the future of our children,” he said, noting that as long as the war continues, there are still many unknowns. “We can’t answer truthfully how long we will be here. (For) now everything is ok, everything is enough for us.
His wife Lilia shared the same sentiment.
“We must think about our children now,” added Lilia Vovk. “It is the main thing — that’s why we are here. To know that our children are safe.”