Hundreds of Ukrainian newcomers gather at festive breakfast with gifts for children in Winnipeg

Hundreds of Ukrainian newcomers enjoyed a holiday breakfast Saturday at the Ukrainian National Federation Hall in Winnipeg.

The federation co-organized it with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

“Everything’s new. So let’s give them something familiar like St. Nicholas, nalysnyky (crêpes), the foods, the company and everything like that,” organizer Tony Zerucha said.

Zerucha says they anticipated just over 600 people at the breakfast, including 330 children. In Ukraine, St. Nicholas day — a holiday focused on children, including giving them gifts — is observed on Dec. 19.

Organizers collected about a thousand presents to hand out, thanks to donations from the community.

Inna Akymenko came to Winnipeg with her four-year-old daughter, Alisa, in June. Their home in Mykolaiv, a city in southern Ukraine, was destroyed in the war. 

Akymenko said that after six months, she and her daughter are beginning to settle into their new life here.

“It was a situation when you don’t have choice … you have to do something to have a happy life for your kid,” Akymenko said.

Her daughter likes the winter weather in Winnipeg, and hopes that she’ll get some Lego as a holiday gift.

A woman in a light blue shirt stands at a buffet style table. Another woman, in a grey sweater, hands her food.
The holiday event for Ukrainian newcomer families had two seatings on Saturday, at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

For Olesia Chychkevych, finding safety in Manitoba has been a miracle, and the holiday gathering is a bright spot after a difficult year.

“It’s the favourite holiday of our family. But Canadians don’t allow us to feel alone. Without you we can’t stay safe here,” she said through tears.

She came to Winnipeg in August with her three sons, who are four, 15, and 22. Their father had to stay in Ukraine.

Her youngest son, Daniel, loves Paw Patrol and was excited to see St. Nicholas.

Zerucha said that the demand for the holiday gathering was high, with hundreds registering within a few days. The breakfast had two seatings at 9:30 and 11:30 in the morning.

“To uproot your whole family, your entire life and come here … we felt compelled to give them some normalcy and some excitement for Christmas,” he said.

Hundreds of gifts wrapped in Christmas themed paper are stacked along a wall.
The Ukrainian National Federation and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress collected over 1,000 presents to give to Ukrainian newcomer families. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

View original article here Source