According to recent estimates, 12.8 million people have been displaced in Ukraine, 5.1 million of whom have left the country; the equivalent of 17.5 percent of the total population.
For those who have had to leave homes, family, and even their country, what feelings and thoughts go through your mind and heart when you don’t know what awaits you if and when you are able to return home?
From 1996 to 2005, we had the privilege of living in Ukraine for nine years, partnering with the Ministry of Education to impact teachers and students throughout the country.
One family close to our hearts has now fled as refugees, hoping to make their way to Canada. The Kocharyans are a family of four (five, if you include their cat) from the city of Konotop in northeastern Ukraine, regrettably and dangerously close to the Russian border. When Russian-backed forces invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, the social and cultural fabric of their region of Ukraine went from bad to worse.
Providentially, three members of this family were able to leave Ukraine just a week after the bombing started. The final member of the family was extracted only two weeks ago, when the family was reunited in Poland.
The Kocharyans are currently in Austria awaiting final documentation from the Canadian Consulate. Our hope is that they will arrive in Castlegar in the next few weeks. Our hearts swell as we see Ukrainian flags commemorate those who are suffering from the events that are tearing their lives apart. Our hearts cry out for Ukrainians, and for those Russians who also grieve with them and are praying for peace.
May unity and reconciliation be our heart’s desire moving ahead, despite forces that would seek to tear families, communities, and countries apart.
Peter and Kim Koteles