When Linda Rudachyk brought Vlad Malezhyk for his first tour of RJC she teased him on the walk to the front door. “Vlad, you’re gonna sing, do you sing?” she asked. He was certain the answer was no.
Vlad had arrived in Canada in June. After enduring a month of bombing at his home in Ukraine, living in the basement with no heat or running water, his family had fled the country, staying in Romania for two months before they could come to Canada. Vlad didn’t speak much English, and had not really enjoyed school back home in Ukraine. So when Linda, who coordinates the sponsorship group that brought Vlad’s family to Rosthern, suggested that he would be in choir at RJC he repeatedly told her no.
But then just a little while later, at the first concert of the year in September, there was Vlad singing in the choir. And that’s just one small change. Since starting at RJC in September his family has noticed that he’s happier than he has been since they arrived in Canada. “I know that they do notice a difference. He’s communicating, he’s happy. He’s just happier,” Linda said. Vlad’s dad Pavlo Malezhyk said that he’s had a few difficult years with remote school during covid, then the displacement from the war, so the opportunity for Vlad to be with other students his age, in a social community like RJC, has made a difference. “He’s got some social experience now,” said Pavlo. “Much nicer than it was his last half year.”
Since coming to RJC he’s enjoyed the activities like the retreat to Christopher Lake or going tubing. And he’s been more positive about the classes too. “They tell us that he didn’t like school any days of his life until he came into RJC,” said Linda. Pavlo suspects this change is because compared to Ukraine, RJC has a much more wholistic approach to education that is less rigid, and it feels like teachers are more invested in a relationship with students.
Linda says the sponsorship group specifically chose RJC for Vlad because there is a diverse group of students at the school. “There’s kids, students from many countries there and lots of them [are working on their English skills], whereas at the other school he would have stood out,” says Linda. And the fact that everyone in Grade 10 is new to the school means there aren’t established friend groups so it is easier for a new student to fit in.
The connection between Vlad’s family and RJC actually began before they even arrived in Rosthern. Once the sponsorship group was able to find a house that would fit the family, with five of their six children, they needed to get it fixed up quickly. So Linda called up the school and asked if RJC would be willing to send over students to help with yard work and painting. “It was pretty decrepit, and they sent 25 students and four staff and we had a great big work-bee one day and got the house extremely, extremely ready,” said Linda. “Those kids work hard, they always work hard.”
Vlad’s family is one of three that the same sponsorship group has brought to Rosthern. And while it has been a lot of work to collect donations and find everything they need to support three families, Linda says their arrival has been a blessing to the community. “I would say, without a doubt that we have loved every minute of it,” she says. “It’s just been nothing but a blessing for us. Any work or anything that anybody’s given, it’s a blessing to us.”