‘Where is the humanity?’ Fears for Ukraine

Maria Brown-Shepherd

Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District president Maria Brown-Shepherd has helped welcome and settle refugees from war-torn countries, but she didn’t expect to be facing a crisis in her father’s homeland of Ukraine.


Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District president Maria Brown-Shepherd has helped welcome and settle refugees from war-torn countries, but she didn’t expect to be facing a crisis in her father’s homeland of Ukraine.

Aleski and Halina Czerkaskyj fled Ukraine after World War II and settled in Australia in 1949.

The family came from Lutsk and Lviv near the Polish border, cities that have been bombarded by invading Russian forces in recent days.

“I don’t think people realise how bad things are, people are fearful,” she said.

“The last message we got they were enduring air raids and they were all in bomb shelters.

“Where is the humanity, people don’t want war, it is a tragedy.”

Mr Czerkaskyj was a founding member of the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District.

He worked as a labourer initially after arriving, despite having studied at the Polish University as an agronomist, but eventually worked in agricultural science, including development of fruit varieties.

“My parents came out in 1949 to get away from the hardship, unless you have been through it you can’t really understand,” Ms Brown-Shepherd said.

The family still cherishes Ukrainian tradition, especially at Easter and Christmas, and Ms Brown-Shepherd hung a Ukrainian flag on her front gate in solidarity when Russia launched attacks across the country.

“As kids we got to know a lot of families in Ukraine,” she said.

“We never thought what is happening at the moment could happen, we were brought up not to be racists, regardless of religion, culture of country of origin.

“Dad always emphasised that.”

Ms Brown-Shepherd had planned to visit Ukraine with her sisters to trace their father’s roots and his journey as a refugee through Austria and eventually Australia.

The pandemic intervened and now they don’t know when, or if, it will be possible to visit Ukraine.

Despite an insensitive billboard appearing outside a Shepparton hospitality venue, Ms Brown-Shepherd said the sense is that the people of Ukraine have overwhelming support.

“Ukraine should get more help from the world, my concern is the children, what future do they have?”

 

Maria Brown-Shepherd

“I don’t think people realise how bad things are, people are fearful,”

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