For one special day at the Vernon Elks Lodge, Ukrainians living in the Vernon area could forget about their war-torn home country and come together as a community.
The Elks Lodge was filled with laughter and Ukrainian chatter on Saturday, Jan. 7, with more than 140 people celebrating Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas together.
The event was hosted by the Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Services Society (VDICSS), supporting the more than 200 Ukrainians who have moved to the Vernon area since the war with Russia broke out last February.
The event was funded by United for Ukraine Local Love Fund by United Way B.C., along with a generous donation from Butcher Boys to cover food costs, as well as the ongoing support of the Elks Hall to provide a safe and welcoming space for the celebration.
Ukrainians and other community members — including host families, VDICSS staff, volunteers and board members — contributed their own traditional dishes to the Christmas feast. Gifts for families and cultural offerings were shared among the guests.
In honour and respect for their homeland, and to recognize all the soldiers and loved ones still there, the group observed a moment of silence and the Ukrainian national anthem was played. An opening song and prayer started the dinner off, and the event closed with Ukrainian Christmas carols sung in both Ukrainian and English.
“It’s so important to bring new Ukrainians in our city together to help them feel connected and supported during this first holiday season they are spending away from their homeland,” said Anetha Kashuba, community connections coordinator for VDICSS.
“Canada stands behind Ukraine, and this event exemplifies this statement in how much our community values and cares for its newest residents.”