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Belorussian youngsters given warm welcome

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The weather was perfect for a “welcome back” picnic at Pither’s Point Park last Saturday and the six children from Belarus were primed for fun after their long trip back to Rainy River District.

“I am very happy to be with Yvonne and Stewart” were the first words out of the mouth of Iryna Slavashevich at Saturday’s outing, which was staged by the Rainy Lake Multicultural Association.

The afternoon of good food, sunny skies, and swimming certainly set the stage for a summer of enjoyment for the youngsters who’ve come from so far to spend another six weeks here.

Despite a three-hour flight delay and a one-day “misplacement” of luggage, all six were happy to be back with the families who had provided them with a second home last summer.

“It was a big reunion—real nice,” said Terry Wilcott, who along with Cathy Zin, is hosting Dzmitry Fedoruk at their Fort Frances home.

“After everyone arrived, everyone liked to sleep for a few days. They were a bit jet-lagged from what I understand,” he added.

“Since then, we’ve taken it easy—the rain kept us inside,” noted Wilcott. “But the big plans for the summer are lots of fishing, boating, and swimming.”

“They were pretty happy to be back home and settled in,” echoed Yvonne Gill, who along with her husband, Stewart, are hosting Slavashevich and Alena Mauchun once again.

“We’ve played badminton and met with old friends from last summer,” she noted. “The main thing is to take some time to settle in.”

And Gill already has noticed some changes in the girls’ habits since last summer.

“They’re eating more—trying different things,” she remarked. “They’ve haven’t been so indifferent to ‘strange foods.’ Alena found my spaghetti is pretty darn good.

“She said, ‘This is pretty tasty,’ while last year she wouldn’t even try it,” laughed Gill.

Heidi Ivall agreed her guest, Veranica Tatsiankova, already was fitting in just fine. “She knows the friends, the family, the kids. She’s established a relationship here, and it’s just easier this time,” she said.

Ivall will be sending her young visitor to camp for several weeks with her own kids, Neil and Matthew.

“The whole stay is about rest, relaxation, and downtime,” she noted.

The other two visitors, Artsiom Kandratsiuk and Dzmitry Stryha, will be staying will be staying with Dr. Albert and Linda Beller of Rainy River.

As for the picnic itself, the only planned event during the children’s stay, organizers Sig Mosely, Linda Rajala, and Bev Kotnik were pleased.

“We didn’t get as many people out as last year but the weather co-operated,’ said Kotnik. “[The children] are so appreciative. It makes you step back and appreciate what we have here.

“We really enjoy doing this,” she added.

The local multicultural association also gave several gifts to the six children, wrapped in gift bags and duffle bags.

Some of the items in the “care packages” included a blanket, mending kits, school supplies, and yarn, as well as some fun items like Beanie babies and a little pocket change to buy themselves some candy.

The host families also were given a small sum of money to help purchase back-to-school clothes before the children head back home to Belarus on Aug. 20.

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