Community rallies around Ukrainian refugees

Published 5:00am 26 June 2022

Community rallies around Ukrainian refugees
Words by Kylie Knight

Twins Kiril and Arina have been embraced by the Redcliffe community since escaping war-torn Ukraine and are now settling into school life with their Year 6 classmates at Redcliffe’s Southern Cross Catholic College.

The children escaped Kyiv with their mother, aunts, uncle and cousin, thanks to the efforts of their Aunty Olena and Uncle Nick who fundraised enough to meet them in Poland. They helped them cross the border with the aid of humanitarian organisations such as the Vidler Family Foundation.

“It was intense,” Olena recalls.

“Getting them across the border was difficult. My brother and I were so happy to see them make it across the border, but they only had the clothes on their back.”

Since coming to Australia, the twins have been embraced by the Redcliffe and Southern Cross College community.

Kiril and Arina were offered a full scholarship and have been given the chance to work on healing as they work towards a better future.

“They love going to school and they love Australia,” Olena says.

“Kiril and Arina tell me they love their teacher and everyone has been really lovely and helpful. They only come home wishing they could understand and speak English better to better communicate with friends but they’re working on it.

“Maths is their favourite because they’re quite good at it and don’t need to know too much English. They have even been helping other students in maths and as students use laptops at Southern Cross College, they can use Google Translate to communicate in class.”

Community rallies around Ukrainian refugees

Embracing college life

Southern Cross Catholic College Head of Campus Leanne Murray says in addition to their studies, they love sport.

“They have been representing the college in weekly soccer inter-school competitions and they just enjoyed their Year 6 camp experience which was wonderful,” she says.

While these positive experiences do not bring their father and uncle, who are defending Ukraine against Russian invasion, to Redcliffe and safety, they help.

The highlight the importance of human connection, and how the community can learn from their story to be aware of issues affecting refugees in order to support them.

“Despite daily check-ins with their father and uncle, searching for news of air raids and the trauma this family has gone through, it is great to see that they are on the journey of healing and building a better future, with counsellor visits to the school and English lessons to build confidence,” Ms Murray says.

The family is working on achieving independence as they have limited government support and are relying on Olena, with the large family living at the one residence.

More than 300 people attended a fundraiser in May to raise money for the family which will be used to help them build a life in Australia. The family recently moved to more suitably sized home.

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