Hundreds of Ukrainian newcomers and their host families joined parishioners at a Calgary church on Sunday to enjoy a pre-Stampede pancake breakfast.
The event was held at St. Stephen Protomartyr Ukrainian Catholic Church and organized by the local Knights of Columbus chapter in collaboration with the church.
Bill Lewchuk with the Knights of Columbus was chief organizer of the event. He said the breakfast was meant to introduce Ukrainian newcomers to locals and give them an introduction to the upcoming Calgary Stampede.
"Really the reason we put it on is to give people a break, to meet other people and just say, 'come and be part of us, you're welcome here,'" Lewchuk said.
The Knights of Columbus served up pancakes and sausages as event attendees enjoyed live country music and learned about Stampede events.
'Just for a minute, it makes you forget'
Lewchuk said he's heard from Ukrainian newcomers who still have family back home and are worried about their safety.
"Psychologically that weighs on their mind," said Lewchuk.
That's certainly the case for Arina Nechitailiuk, 18, who attended the pancake breakfast. She arrived in Canada on June 1 with her parents.
Nechitailiuk said it's frustrating to think about what's going on back home in Ukraine, especially because the entire rest of her family is still in the country.
But attending events like Sunday's breakfast are a helpful break from that stark reality.
"Just for a minute, it makes you forget about all the other things that happened to your family, to your relatives, to your friends that are still staying there," said Nechitailiuk.
Making connections, learning about local culture
As a newcomer who did not know anyone in Calgary before arriving, Nechitailiuk said attending these types of events is important for many Ukrainian immigrants.
"Meeting new people, making connections, it's really important because it really helps [us] adjust here."
Nechitailiuk also enjoyed the local cuisine served at the breakfast event.
"Pancakes are great. In Ukraine we don't have pancakes. We make oladushki."
Oladushki is a type of small, thick pancake commonly enjoyed in Ukraine and Russia.
While she's still wrapping her mind around what exactly the Stampede is, Nechitailiuk said she's enjoying learning about local Calgary culture and even hopes to attend some Stampede events.
The Calgary Stampede will be held from July 8 to 17 this summer.