After spending six weeks experiencing life in Rainy River District, the 11 children from Belarus are spending their last few days with their host families before heading for home this weekend.
Allan Empey and most of the children will travel to Winnipeg via Kenora on Sunday on the first leg of their long journey home. After staying overnight as billets at a church in Winnipeg, the children will have to fly to Toronto, then Montreal, and finally on to Moscow.
The flight will be followed by a 12-hour bus ride to Chaussey.
Some of the children, such as Dimitry Fedoruk, then will have to take another bus to get to the city of Minsk.
But a couple of the children, like Margarita Alexeeva, will be going to Winnipeg on Saturday with John and Sandra Scott of Rainy River so they can show her around the city before she leaves.
When asked what they would miss most about their stay in Canada, the children gave very different answers.
“I will miss dog and cat,” said Alexeeva, who loves to dress up the Scott’s three terriers and two cats and play with them. She also said she was sad to go home.
Andre Asavets, who has been staying with Allan and Linda Empey and their seven children in Devlin, will miss (like several of the others) the swimming, fishing, and biking.
His stay was a “positive experience all the way around for us and the kids,” Empey noted.
“Our two boys [Dzmitry Stryha and Artsion Kandratsic] are going to miss the swimming pool the most,” said Linda Beller of Rainy River. “They helped build it, and they were a great help.
“It was enjoyable to have them since we have four boys of own,” she added.
Yvonne Gill of Morson said the two girls staying her family, Iryna Slavashevich and Alena Mauchun, will miss ice cream the most.
“If they could eat it every day, they would,” she noted. “I’ve already asked them if they wanted to come back and visit, and they said ‘Yeah!’”
Fedoruk, who has been staying with Cathy Zin and Terry Wilcott, named swimming, fishing, Sunny Cove Camp, and pushing the cart and scanning groceries at Safeway among his favourites experiences here.
He also said he would miss the couple, their sons, Giordan and Austin, and the family cat.
All of the host families are preparing for the children’s departure by putting together packages for them to take home, including much-needed items such as Tylenol, vitamins, and Polysporin, as well as some “fun” ones.
“We just know we have to send her home with a bottle of ketchup, some corn bran, and jean skirts,” said Sandra Scott. “She loves jean skirts.
“We’re sending her home with as much stuff as possible.”
Asavats will be going home with “lots of clothes,” said Empey. “Also, we’ll be sending something back for his sister, who wants anything to do with Barbie, and his younger brother, who wants a toy car.”
The Bellers will be sending their two billets back with “lots of clothes that have been given to them.”
“Dima likes ‘Battleship,’ the board game, and both of the boys like the Asterix books so we’ve taken that into consideration,” she added.
Besides going home with clothes for school, Slavashevich will be leaving the Gills with something she didn’t come here with—a pair of glasses compliments of Drs. Lidkea, Elliott, and Lidkea.
Meanwhile, Zin said Fedoruk wants to bring home “Nescafe coffee for his father, Earl Gray tea for his mother, and marshmallows, which they don’t have in Minsk, to show to his sister.”
He also will be bringing back a couple of baseball caps and some Lego.
Once their guests leave, the host families will met to gauge the responses to the children’s visit, and see if anyone would be interested in doing it again next year.
If her schedule permitted, Zin said she would “definitely do it again,” adding it’s been an experience for everyone.
The host families also used the visit to learn a lot about how people can communicate and help one another despite cultural differences and a language barrier.
They’ll also know the youngsters are leaving healthier and happier than when they first arrived here six short weeks ago.