At our recent Gala/Auction, Janet Wynands shared the story of the little girl that they began hosting 20 years ago. It is a beautiful example of how a small gesture by a caring family in Canada can have long term, life changing results for that child. We wanted to share this story with you, so here it is, in Janet’s own words, following this picture of the Wynands family when they first hosted Valya 20 years ago. From left to right, front row; Jennifer, John, Valya and Karen, back row; Janet, Eric and Ed.
We have been honoured with the opportunity to bring our “Belarusian daughter”, Valya, back to Canada for a visit under the CAC umbrella after 14 years and 3 attempts, as they say, third time lucky! Valentina (Valya) came to visit us 4 times starting 20 years ago when she was 7 years old. She lived on a collective farm in Beschinie in a family of 7 children. Her home had no running water, no indoor plumbing and yet was full of love, like any Canadian home. Her mother drove a horse and cart collecting milk door to door in the type of milk cans that farmers use to use here in the 1960’s. In the same village stands an abandoned, fully modernized dairy barn, non-functional due to a scarcity of parts needed for repairs. Her 2 older sisters had been taken out of school to work in a rug hooking factory in order to help support the family after her father had broken his leg. Valya suffered from non-healing sores that she had for over 6 months secondary to malnutrition and a weakened immune system. These sores healed within 10 days of arriving in Canada due simply to respite from a radioactively contaminated environment and healthy food. Our whole family has been truly blessed by the opportunity to host this very special child of Chernobyl. My daughter, Karen, as a grade 5 student, wrote the following as part of a public speaking assignment: “I have a friend who is just like a sister and her name is Valentina Koslova. She comes from Belarus and she has visited us for four summers now. She first came in 1993 when she was seven, she was dressed in her best, a faded track suit with buttons missing and holes in the knees and open toed sandals which were far too small and falling apart. She was very thin and pale and carried a bag which held only a change of underwear and a present for each of us. I had to share my clothes, my toys and my room with my Belarusian friend and by the end of six weeks it was just like having another sister. We laughed together, we played together, we argued together and when it was time for her to go I cried because I didn’t know if I would ever see her again.”
After 16 years, we have been truly blessed to have been reunited with our Belarusian daughter and her 3 year old child, Nastia. Nastia is a second generation child of Chernobyl. She was born with spina bifidia that required surgery at 10 days of age to remove a spinal cyst and to drain fluid from her head. She developed a skin condition secondary to the procedure which she has been fighting with for the past 3 years. It had been slowly improving but has healed completely within 2 days of being treated in Canada, hard to believe but true, sore cracks and scaling skin gone within 48 hours … mind boggling-we are so lucky to live in this country!
We would like to extend our sincere thanks to all those involved in the CAC program that work so hard reaching out to those in need, one person at a time, one project at a time, hands extended in welcome and hearts open in love. You are a very special group. Words cannot express enough-thanks so much.
Janet and Ed, Karen, Jennifer, John and Eric Wynands, Valya and Nastia, our Belarussian family.
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