Escapee from Ukrainian conflict, thirteen-year-old Anna is locked in a battle against medulloblastoma, a formidable form of brain cancer. Prior to the escalation of war, treatments in her homeland Ukraine and neighboring Poland helped her fight, but now, Edmonton is her battlefield.
With her mother, sharing her first name, by her side, Anna has dedicated her heart to the Free Store for Ukrainian Newcomers for the past year. Yulila Shabanova, first crossed paths with the mother-daughter duo within the confines of this store. “Anna leads by example, channelling her energy into organizing the toy display at the store,” shared Yulila. As coworkers transitioning into friends, Yulila found herself entwined into the fabric of their resilience. The line that once distinguished them from family disappeared without a trace.
This sentiment resonates with Janice Krissa as well. “Anna’s role at the free store intertwined with her life so profoundly, that post her first surgery, she expressed a fervent desire to return,” said Krissa. Her health, however, has since plummeted. “She’s currently in a coma, and the news from the doctors doesn’t inspire optimism.”
In response to their predicament, a fundraiser has been launched by Ukraine’s Kitchen, a Ukrainian catering business co-founded by Krissa. Staffed exclusively by Ukrainian newcomers, this joint enterprise illustrates solidarity in their shared strife.
“We’ll do everything within our power to lighten their load,” pledged Krissa. Spearheading an initiative, Anna’s chef brother is selling traditional Ukrainian cheesecakes, donating all proceeds to fund Anna’s fight.
With the shared experience of leaving families behind in Ukraine to forge a life in Edmonton, the Free Store and Ukraine’s Kitchen employees have banded together. Regular hospital visits to sit with Anna and her mother, and the resultant bond, transcends the familial framework.
Sabanova beckons Edmontonians to support their cause. “Support for Anna solidifies one’s place in our expansive family. And an extensive family is nothing less than a boon,” she added.