IT is hard to imagine being torn away from your family and travelling to a distant part of the world.
This thought became a reality last week when Buxton played host to displaced Ukrainian children last week at a special camp organised by the Ukrainian Youth Association.
Many of the newly-arrived children, aged between three and 14 years, are separated from their parents who have remained in their homeland to join the fight against the Russian invasion.
Coordinator of the camp, Nick Soloczynskyj, said that the camp gave the children a chance to feel welcomed and supported.
“In all we had 14 children and six mothers who were joined by 20 Ukrainian Australian children for the four day camp. They were supported by teachers and volunteers from Melbourne and the local area,” Mr Soloczynskyj said.
“The Ukrainian Youth Association of Australia purchased the property at Buxton around 70 years ago and we regularly hold youth camps here, so it seemed right to host the children and their mothers and to give them a chance to feel welcome in Australia and to foster new friendships with other families,” he added.
Mr Soloczynskyj praised what he described as the “wonderful community spirit and support” the venture had received.
“The Association has received support from the Murrindindi Shire Council through a grant of $2200 to assist with costs for the camp and from the Lake Mountain Alpine Resort who provided free snow play equipment and the use of an indoor venue for our visit to the resort on Friday,” Mr Soloczynskyj said.
Last Thursday Murrindindi Shire Mayor, Cr Sue Carpenter and Cr Damien Gallagher, visited the camp spending time with the children at play and having lunch with them.
“It was my honour to attend the Ukrainian Youth Winter Camp and Refugee Week Lunch. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting a wonderful group of children and teenagers and their mothers. Despite the unfathomable challenges and heartache these children have had to go through, leaving behind their fathers, older brothers and grandfathers it was heartening to see them smiling, interacting with one another and making new friends,” Cr Carpenter said.
“I would like to acknowledge the Ukrainian Youth Association of Australia for their incredible efforts in organising the winter camp. I am extremely proud of our community’s effort to make these children feel welcomed and supported, and hope that they will one day be reunited with their families,” she added.
Cr Gallagher said that he also had the privilege of attending the camp in Buxton.
“The stories of the refugees themselves are equal parts troubling and optimistic as those who’ve been displaced contemplate their future away from their extended families in a foreign land with limited confidence in visa certainty. All the while, the support network established by the Youth Association seeks to establish and realise a positive future,” Cr Gallagher said.
Mr Soloczynskyj thanked Cr Carpenter and Cr Gallagher for their interest in the camp saying that they were one of many visitors who had put smiles on the faces of the children.
“Over the past week the children have felt welcomed and supported and many have fostered new friendships. They have also learned a lot about Australia, including its plants and animals in an enjoyable environment,” he said.
“The council has been amazing and at Lake Mountain, equally so. Kirra, Alan and staff were just brilliant. Fallon’s Bus Service was impeccable. Ro at Mystic Mountain Narbethong donated footwear to one of the families and we had a neighbour come round today and give a sizable donation. I don’t know what to say Just awesome but humbling.”