Four Canadian members of the Canada World Youth Ukraine-Canada contingent that first visited the Alberni Valley in 2008-09 are Russell Mackenzie, left, Sabrina Dupuis, Samantha Thomas and Ben Scheidegger. The four put on a Ukrainian dinner March 19, 2022 at the Kinsmen Community Centre. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Four Canadian members of the Canada World Youth Ukraine-Canada contingent that first visited the Alberni Valley in 2008-09 are Russell Mackenzie, left, Sabrina Dupuis, Samantha Thomas and Ben Scheidegger. The four put on a Ukrainian dinner March 19, 2022 at the Kinsmen Community Centre. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Canada-Ukraine exchange students show appreciation to Port Alberni

More than 120 people attend Ukrainian Solidarity Dinner put on by former students

Ben Scheidegger, Samantha Thomas, Sabrina Dupuis and Russell Mackenzie returned to Port Alberni on a special mission, Saturday evening. The four were participants of the Canada World Youth team that spent three months in Ukraine and three months in Port Alberni in 2008-09, volunteering and sharing cultural experiences in both countries.

The four were back in Port Alberni to hold a fundraising dinner to help people in Ukraine who are under attack from Russia. Half of the participants from 2008-09 were from Ukraine.

Iryna Kozynets from Port Alberni made an impassioned plea for help for the people of Ukraine. She moved to Port Alberni 10 years ago from Zhytomyr, Ukraine. She thanked the people who packed the Kinsmen Community Centre’s second floor for their support “in this troubled time.”

READ: Canada-Ukraine exchange students return to Port Alberni for fundraising cultural night

“Right now we are fighting to prove we are absolutely a free state and people,” she said. “We won’t give up.”

City of Port Alberni Councillor Ron Paulson choked up as he read an email he received from Svitlana Winters, who was one of the Canada World Youth supervisors when the Canada-Ukraine exchange happened in Port Alberni in 2008-09. “I often remember our time in Port Alberni with great warmth,” said Winters, who now lives in Calgary with her husband Steve and their daughter.

“I always say the best community spirit I have ever experienced is the community spirit in Port Alberni.”

RELATED: Organizers of Port Alberni’s Ukrainian Solidarity Night appeal for volunteers

Winters spent time with Paulson as CWY participants helped set up for Winter Wonderland at the AV Multiplex when they were here. Winters also volunteered at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in Port Alberni as a translator for Team Russia.

Videos from Winters and a fellow Ukraine participant were played after dinner.

Scheidegger also read a message from Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns, who sent his regrets from Ottawa.

Nearly 120 people registered for the dinner and several others showed up unannounced, Scheidegger said.

“At first we weren’t sure we could do it,” he said. “That’s a lot of pierogi.”

Guests were served borscht (soup), varenyky (pierogi) and assorted breads. There were also beverages typically found in Ukraine, including a soda. Volunteers like Oleksandra Yaniuk and Shayne Kore came from Courtenay to help cook and serve the meal. Others from Port Alberni and Campbell River also came to Port Alberni to help.

Dinner guests were asked to consider donating to either the Canada-Ukraine Foundation or Ukrainian World Congress.

Port AlberniUkraine

 

Oleksandra Yaniuk and Shayne Kore bring out a cart full of bowls of borscht for the Ukrainian fundraising dinner held March 19, 2022 at the Kinsmen Community Centre in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Oleksandra Yaniuk and Shayne Kore bring out a cart full of bowls of borscht for the Ukrainian fundraising dinner held March 19, 2022 at the Kinsmen Community Centre in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Samantha Thomas, centre, from Vancouver Island joins Iryna Kozynets, left, and Oleksandra Yaniuk, both Ukrainian, during a pause at the Ukrainian fundraising dinner in Port Alberni on March 19, 2022. Thomas was part of the Canada World Youth Ukraine-Canada contingent that visited Port Alberni in 2008-09. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Samantha Thomas, centre, from Vancouver Island joins Iryna Kozynets, left, and Oleksandra Yaniuk, both Ukrainian, during a pause at the Ukrainian fundraising dinner in Port Alberni on March 19, 2022. Thomas was part of the Canada World Youth Ukraine-Canada contingent that visited Port Alberni in 2008-09. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)