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Year in Review: Langley opened homes, wallets for Ukrainian refugees

The year was full of fundraisers for the war-torn nation attacked by Russia
Cst. Dennis Bell was delighted. An overflow crowd of 240 people packed the banquet hall at the Royal Canadian Legion Aldergrove branch on Saturday, May 28, for a fundraising dinner of perogies and sausages, served by Langley RCMP officers and firefighters in full dress uniform. Bell came up with the idea, jointly with Veronica Cave of Veronica’s Gourmet Pereogies. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, it set off shockwaves around the world, including here in Langley.

With one of the largest populations of people of Ukrainian descent in the world, Canada saw both a significant number of refugees arriving from Ukraine, as well as fundraisers to help the Ukrainian people.

Some refugees shared their stories about getting out of what had rapidly become a war zone.

Dmitry Lozinsky and his wife Karyna, with family on both sides of the Russian-Ukrainian border, wound up stuck at a Russian border crossing in the early days of the conflict, with a border guard accusing Dmitry of being a terrorist.

“You’re a liar,” the Russian thundered, Dmitry said. “You’re going to jail. You’re a terrorist, and an extremist, and you’re going to jail.”

They finally were allowed to go, and made their way to Canada with the help of a charity organization. Trained as a lawyer, Dmitry got local work permits and was soon working on a car lot and as a DoorDash driver.

Local charities and churches pulled together to raise money and send vital supplies to Ukraine, and to its western neighbours, which saw a flood of refugees.

Christian Life Assembly worked with a church in Poland to quickly transfer $50,000 in aid to Ukrainians fleeing the fighting.

“We just went to social media, we said ‘We’ve got partners, they’re at the border, they need help,’” said Derrick Hamre, pastor at CLA.

They had $35,000 raised by the end of the last weekend in February, just days after Russian tanks rolled across the border.

Blue and yellow flags sprouted across Langley on cars, houses, businesses, and even as the colour scheme on birdhouses.

Fundraisers continued across the community – naturally several fundraisers featured perogies – and kept going right through to December, as Ukraine’s power infrastructure was being hammered by Russian missile attacks.

Seemingly every group in Langley that can raise money has tried to help, from car enthusiasts to Rotarians to Langley RCMP and firefighters.

The “Just Cause” meal for Ukraine relief in May was the work of RCMP Const. Dennis Bell and Veronica Cave, owner of Veronica’s Gourmet Perogies in Aldergrove – with the space and kitchen facilities donated by the Aldergrove legion.

“This has exceeded all of my expectations,” Bell told the Langley Advance Times.

“The community has been amazing.”

However, scams became a problem as early as March as Canadians kept opening their wallets to help Ukraine.

By November, about 117,000 Ukrainian refugees had arrived in Canada, while hundreds of thousands more were still awaiting permission to come.

In the meantime, a number of groups are pulling together to host an invitation-only event on the Ukrainian Christmas, Saturday, Jan. 7 here in Langley.

Being dubbed a Ukrainian Day of Community, organizers have tried to reach out to all of Langley’s new Ukrain families, inviting them to a free “celebration of spirit, strength, and example” with a brunch and entertainment at Newlands.

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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