Ukrainian students receive lifeline from Langara College

Ukrainian Support Bursary offers relief for students fleeing war zone

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By Roy Fang

Olga Byrledianu didn’t hear the first explosions when they began in Kyiv, Ukraine, as Russia launched its invasion of its neighbour more than a year ago.

Three days later, she fled with her family and her dog, Roger, to the Czech Republic.

Nine months later, she arrived in Canada and in January, became a film arts student at Langara College.

 “I’ve only been here one month but I already love it,” she said. “I feel big support from people here, especially from teachers or mentors or program coordinators.”

Byrledianu is being offered the chance to apply for the Ukrainian Support Bursary through Langara College Foundation. The college established the $30,000 commitment in March 2022 and it covers a period of three years.

During her time in the Czech Republic, Byrledianu directed a short film, building on her studies at the Ukrainian Film School, she said.

She wanted to continue her studies in film and decided to come to Langara College when she found out the college would waive international fees and only charge her as a domestic student, Byrledianu said.

More help could be needed

Film arts program coordinator Jonas Quastel said he is thrilled to have Byrledianu in his class but said he believes Langara College can do even more to help refugees.

“I think [the Langara] Foundation could probably get a fundraiser going for Ukrainian refugees so that they can just come and have their tuition covered in total,” he said.

Even away from home, Ukrainians are still feeling the effects of the war.

The challenges for other students

Anna Shubina, founder and president of the UBC Ukrainian Student Union, came to Canada in 2019 from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. When news of the invasion broke in 2022, Shubina said she couldn’t focus on anything else.

“It was extremely challenging to continue my studies,” said Shubina. “Ukraine was all that mattered to me.”

She said she is grateful to her professors for supporting her at the time both in allowing accomodations for schoolwork and raising awareness about the war in her classes. She said Ukrainian students found it difficult to find support from someone who understood what they were going through.

“It was difficult to find counsellors specializing in trauma, so many Ukrainian students, especially internationally, did not know who to trust or look for support,” Shubina said. “In my case, I’m thankful to my parents for supporting me.”

A new life in a new city

Arriving in Vancouver, Byrledianu found supports in a Ukrainian homestay to start her life in a new city.

“A lot of people actually were very helpful here,” she said, noting many people would donate items such as clothing, “because we’re carrying only one luggage and a dog.”

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