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Ukrainians in Kelowna come together to plan a path forward, as war rages on

After nearly 2 years of war, Kelowna Stands With Ukraine is helping people to plan for the future
(Denys Storozhuk/Submitted)

Over the past year more than 1000 Ukrainians left their homes and settled in the Okanagan, after fleeing a war that continues to rage on.

Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February of 2022, and thousands of people were forced to leave as their communities became a war-zone.

People packed up and fled with the hope that they would be able to return home to peace, said Denys Storozhuk, President of Kelowna Stands With Ukraine.

Now, as the two year anniversary of the war approaches, many people who have settled in the Okanagan are becoming increasingly pessimistic.

“There is diminishing hope that the war will end anytime soon,”said Storozhuk.

He explained that while Ukrainians are incredibly grateful to Canada for the support that they have received while living away from their homeland, they miss their old lives back home.

Storozhuk said that while Ukrainians living in the Okanagan have made the best of their time here by finding jobs, making friends, exploring and learning English, they desperately want to return home to their family, friends and culture.

READ MORE: After fleeing war for Kelowna, Ukrainian woman unveils tasty new shop, celebrates Canada

The uncertain timeline for Ukrainians living abroad has manifested in mental illness, particularly as stress, depression and anxiety, explained Storozhuk.

On Nov. 23, approximately 100 Ukrainian newcomers gathered for a forum intended to address the feelings of despair and to plan for the future.

Kelowna Stands With Ukraine partnered with the Maple Hope Foundation to host the forum. Psychologists, immigration consultants as well as academic and career advisors helped the room full of people to find a path forward.

Additionally, the forum, held in Kelowna’s downtown library, was a safe space where people could bond and share stories of the trauma and difficulties experienced during their forced migration.

“Events like this forum bring people together and provide solutions… the main idea is to help Ukrainians who have arrived here to deal with the stress of the ongoing war,” said Storozhuk.

There are also weekly group therapy sessions available for people to attend. Storozhuk explained that seeking help for psychological needs is not something that comes easily to many Ukrainians, but he is trying to get more people involved in the mental health wellness initiatives.

The group Kelowna Stands with Ukraine has been busy providing help to people locally and across the world. Right now, the organization is fundraising and collecting donations for the annual local toy drive and for a shipment of goods and medical supplies that will be sent to Ukraine.

Donations are accepted every Tuesday from 4-6p.m. at the Ukrainian Free Store located in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at 1933 Barlee Road. Decorations and toys are currently in high demand.

For more information call or text (236)471-9922, email or visit the Facebook Group Kelowna Stands With Ukraine.

READ MORE: Kelowna doctor shares stories from volunteering in Ukraine

READ MORE: Kelowna toy drive aims to give Ukrainian kids a Merry Christmas

Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
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