Westport Lions Supporting the People of Ukraine

Sitting from left to right, Walter Chewchuk, Marty Hawkins, Mary Chaikowsky, Marsha, Matthis, Stacey Niceliu and Gloria Chewchuk. Standing second from the left is Mat- thew Chaikowsky. The remainder are Lions members.

Westport Lions Roar

By Lion Bob Reddick

The Westport Lions were honoured to have local residents with Ukrainian heritage present at the clubhouse to help kick off the club’s initiative – Humanitarian Aid for Ukraine. 

All our guests wanted to stress that they are not against the Russian people, but despise their leader Vladimir Putin, and his grab for power. 

Westport resident Mary Chaikowsky’s parents grew up in Ukraine.  During WW II, Mary’s father was sent to a Russian Gulag and her mother to a labour camp in Siberia. 

After the death of Russian dictator, Joseph Stalin on March 5, 1953, an amnesty for some prisoners was negotiated. After Mary’s parents were released, they went to the Middle East to fight with the Polish army under British command.  It was in Tel Aviv-Yafo, commonly known in Canada as Tel Aviv that her parents met, married and Mary was born.

Mary and her husband Frank are currently trying to obtain a visa to allow her cousin and his wife to get out of Ukraine.  The Westport Lions wish them success in this endeavour.  Mary has other cousins living in Ukraine in the areas of heavy fighting. 

Mary has visited Ukraine three times – as recently as last year with her son Matt – and her oldest daughter, Jessica, taught English as a second language in Ukraine for two years.

Stacey Niceliu has ties to Romania, but at the time when he and his wife Marsha wanted to adopt a child, the doors were closed for adoption in that country. So, when they heard of the possibility of adopting a child in Ukraine, they travelled to an orphanage in Kryvyi Rih.  Kryvyi Rih is a city that is two hours south of the capital city of Kyiv formerly known in English as Kiev. 

Kiev was the internationally accepted English- language spelling through the Soviet period and into the first years of this century.  But now, the name Kiev is associated with the Russification of Ukraine and in recent years the correct spelling has switched to the Ukrainian variant of Kyiv.

Marsha and Stacey spent six weeks in Ukraine, five with their son Matthis at the orphanage.  Even though the orphanage had limited money and minimum equipment and staff, Stacey and Marsha will be forever grateful for the good care that Matthis received there. 

At that time, they had two caregivers for 20 infants.  They cannot even imagine the conditions that the children face after the invasion.  The Niceliu family has seen pictures of orphans housed in bombed-out shelters and they are in desperate need of food and medical supplies.    The family feels they owe the people of Ukraine for doing their best in desperate circumstances.        

On December 26, 2005, Marsha & Stacey received the best Christmas gift ever.  On that day they were able to bring their 22-month-old son home.   Since that time, 18-year-old Mattis has turned into a fine young man with many interests including hockey and woodworking. He is a grade 12 student at St. John Catholic School and has received admission to several universities to study criminology.  His career aspirations lean towards law, police, or the military. 

At first, Matthis was hesitant to come to the Lions’ den for a picture because he didn’t want to draw attention to himself.  But when he thought about it, perhaps drawing attention to the plight of Ukraine was a way he could help his birth country. 

Walter and Gloria Chewchuk moved to Westport from Toronto five years ago after Walter retired from being a principal with the York Region.  Gloria’s father fought with the French Foreign Legion during the Second World war and her mother, 18 at the time was in a slave labour camp located in Strasbourg.  Gloria serves on the Board of the Canadian Ukrainian Congress representing the Ukrainian Women’s Association.

Lion Marty Hawkins wanted to help the people of Ukraine.  Marty’s original plan was to tie into the Federal government program of matching individual donations dollar for dollar up to 10 million.  The club quickly learned that the people of Canada with their overwhelming financial support had reached the 10 million limit.  

Westport Lions Club is receiving donations to respond to the immediate and ongoing humanitarian needs of the people in Ukraine. Westport Lions will match all donations dollar for dollar up to $5,000.00.  This money will then be turned over to the Canadian Red Cross in support of humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. Donations can be sent by e-transfer to the club’s treasurer, Lion Gary Warriner, (warriner@rideau.net), or send a cheque to the Westport Lions Club, P.O. Box 428, Westport, ON K0G 1X0.  An alternative for you is to drop your cheque off to any Lions member.  Donations would be appreciated by March 18.  The Westport Lions are sorry that we cannot issue an official tax receipt for your donation, but the club can issue a general receipt. 

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