Young refugees from war-torn Ukraine arrive to Aussie welcome
Smiling at strangers in the street is just one way that life is very different for more than 20 teen refugees seeking safety and friendship in Sydney after leaving the war in Ukraine far behind
READING LEVEL: RED
Teenage Ukrainian refugees* are hopeful about their future in “happy” Sydney after fleeing* their war-torn country.
But while more than 20 Ukrainian teens have found friends in Sydney – including each other – they are still deeply worried about their fathers and brothers left to defend their country from Russian forces.
Ukrainian men aged between 18 and 65 are not allowed to leave the country because they may need to be called in for military service. While reported figures have varied since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the UN has recorded 4,031 civilian deaths to date.
For 14-year-old Sofia Shamanskaya, it’s the second time she has had to leave her home to escape war.
“I was born in Donetsk in the southern corner of Ukraine,” the Abbotsleigh student said. “When the first war started in 2014, I moved to Kyiv and I lived in Kyiv for eight years.”
When Russia invaded again, Sofia and her mother escaped once more, travelling 15,000km to Sydney.
“I am very worried because I have family in Ukraine, my father and my brother and my friends,” Sofia said. “I don’t know the situation, I don’t know what will be tomorrow.
“I am not sure what will be of my country, will my country even exist? I think I will stay here – I am already an Aussie, I love this country.”
She said Australia was a “very different country” to Ukraine.
“Australians are smiling everywhere, always, and it is not strange to say ‘hi’ to someone while you are walking,” she said.
“In Ukraine if you smiled at someone you don’t know, it is very strange. Everyone in this country is so happy.”
Nika Kovalneko moved to Sydney two months ago after fleeing Ukraine to Poland and coming to Australia, where her aunt has lived for 17 years.
“It feels like another world for me, it’s very multicultural*,” she said.
Nika said she would like to return to Ukraine, but as the war continues to rage, she had no certainty about where she would end up.
“All Ukrainians don’t know what will be tomorrow, and what will be of our country – if something goes wrong, maybe it will be a really nice decision to stay in Australia,” she said.
Be Kind Sydney is raising money to help Ukrainian refugees make a new start in Australia.
The charity’s chief executive Loredana Fyffe said the refugees were being warmly welcomed in Sydney.
“These young people are optimistic* about the future, despite the devastation they’ve seen in their young lives,” she said.
“It’s important they don’t feel isolated, and displaced* young people have the chance to continue their education.”
Those who wish to support the Ukrainian community can do so by being kind and donating to the Be Kind Sydney Appeal 2022.
- refugees: people fleeing war, violence, conflict or persecution to find safety in another country
- fleeing: running from something bad, leaving a dangerous place or situation
- multicultural: relating to a number of different cultures, traditions, religions and races
- optimistic: hopeful, positive, cheerful about the future
- displaced: when someone is forced to leave their home, moved, shifted, dislocated
- When did Russia invade Ukraine?
- Who is currently not allowed to leave Ukraine in case they are called to military service?
- How many teen Ukrainian refugees have found friends in Sydney?
- How far did Sofia and her mother travel to reach Sydney after first escaping to Poland?
- The UN has recorded how many civilian deaths since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February?
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1. Refugee welcome pack
If you heard of some Ukrainian teenagers coming to your school and to live in your community, what could you put in a welcome pack to ensure they felt welcomed and supported in our country? Remember that refugees often leave with nothing as they need to escape the violence quickly and safely.
Create your own welcome pack by listing the items you’d like to donate and how you would like to distribute them:
Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Personal and Social; Critical and Creative Thinking
Would you like to raise some money to help these Ukrainian refugees in Australia? You could come up with a simple yet effective or fun idea to help raise money at school or home.
The money could be donated to the Be Kind Sydney Appeal 2022, mentioned in the article, or another charity that looks after these refugees.
Outline your fundraising proposal and if you want to take it further, book a meeting with your school principal to see if anything can be undertaken at your school.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social; Ethical; Critical and Creative Thinking
Imagine you were there during the event being discussed in the article, or for the interview.
Create a conversation between two characters from the article – you may need or want to include yourself as one of the characters. Don’t forget to try to use facts and details from the article to help make your dialogue as realistic as possible.
Go through your writing and highlight any punctuation you have used in green. Make sure you carefully check the punctuation used for the dialogue and ensure you have opened and closed the speaking in the correct places.