Redcliffe community rallying around Ukraine refugees


​​​Above: Arina & Kiril, Year 6 siblings, students and refugees from Kyiv, Ukraine loving their new school in Australia.

​Kiril and Arina are twin siblings in Year 6 who are all smiles as they are surrounded by new friends and enjoying their studies at their new school, Southern Cross College Redcliffe. However, for these students, there is also hope to be reunited with their father and uncle, currently fighting in the Ukraine war.

They were able to bravely flee Kyiv not long after the war started, thanks to their Aunty Olena and Uncle Nick who quickly fundraised enough to meet them in Poland, helping them to cross the border with the aid of humanitarian organisations such as the Vidler Family Foundation. Kiril and Arina escaped with their mother, aunts, uncle and cousin.

“It was intense," says Olena

“Getting them across the border was difficult. My brother and I were so happy to see them make it across the border, but they only had the clothes on their back."

Since coming to Australia, the twins have been embraced by the Redcliffe and Southern Cross College community. Kiril and Arina were offered a full scholarship and have been given the chance to work on healing their wounds, as they work towards a better future.

“They love going to school and they love Australia." Olena said.

“Kiril and Arina tell me they love their teacher and everyone has been really lovely and helpful. They only come home wishing they could understand and speak English better to better communicate with friends but they're working on it!

“Maths is their favourite because they're quite good at it and don't need to know too much English. They have even been helping other students in Maths and as students use laptops at Southern Cross College, they can use Google Translate to communicate in class."

Southern Cross Catholic College-1 (002).jpgAbove: Arina & Kiril with new friends at Southern Cross Catholic College Redcliffe.

In addition to their studies, Head of Campus at Southern Cross College Leanne Murray shares that “They love sport. They have been representing the College in weekly soccer inter-school competitions and they just enjoyed their Year 6 Camp experience which was wonderful."

Whilst these positive experiences do not bring their loved ones home, it highlights the importance of human connection and how as a community we can learn from their story to be aware of issues affecting refugees and work to support them as much as possible. Despite daily check-ins with their father and uncle, searching for news of air raids and the trauma this family has gone through, it is great to see that they are on the journey of healing and building a better future, with counsellor visits to the school and English lessons to build confidence.

The family is working on independence as they have limited government support so are relying on Olena, with the large family living at the one residence. A fundraiser on Friday 27 May 2022 saw over 300 people coming to support and raise much needed funds for the family. This was possible thanks to organisation by Olena and the Vidler Foundation, in addition to local businesses who donated prizes. These funds will go towards helping them build a life in Australia, with the family having just moved to better suitably sized home over the past weekend.

Brisbane Catholic Education wishes them the best for their future and prays for the safety of their loved ones in Ukraine. 

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