Wednesday, July 24, 2024
July 24, 2024

Nostalgia leads to Ukraine preschool fundraiser


Driftwood Contributor

Igor Darmokhid moved with his wife Oksana and daughter Ivanna from Ukraine to Canada in 2018. They found a home on Salt Spring Island, where Igor — a former distribution manager for Procter and Gamble — works shifts at Thrifty’s and Hastings House. But starting a new life isn’t always easy. One and a half years ago, when he was feeling nostalgic, he started painting. It led eventually to an online gallery where he sells his paintings. All the proceeds go to a preschool in a village in Ukraine.

“Zaryvyntsi is a small village, with about 600 residents, in the western part of Ukraine,” Darmokhid said. “It is the place where I grew up. I lived there with my grandmother until I was six before I moved to a big city. After that, I spent most of my summers there. It is, just like Salt Spring, a beautiful place.”

To cope with a new life, far from home, and the isolation of COVID-19, Igor took up painting. Victoria Olchowecki, a retired headteacher and artist with Ukrainian roots who lives on Salt Spring, took him under her wing.

“I wanted to start painting, but I didn’t know exactly what to paint,” said Darmokhid. “Victoria asked me to stay close to my heart. I was a bit homesick at the time, feeling nostalgic about the village I grew up in, so that’s why I started to paint scenes from Zaryvyntsi.”

One and a half years later, Darmokhid has made 36 paintings, not only featuring Zaryvyntsi but also Salt Spring Island.

“It was hard in the beginning. I wanted the paintings to be perfect. But Victoria told me if I wanted a painting to be perfect, I’d better take a picture,” he said with a smile. “So I’ve let that go and it is more relaxing to paint now. It helps me to deal with the stress of normal life. It is a kind of meditation for me, art therapy.”

When Darmokhid spoke with his English teacher Roger May Poh at the Salt Spring Literacy Centre about his paintings and his dream to do something for the preschool in the village where he grew up, they came up with the idea of a virtual gallery on Facebook. They called it Hope for Spring.

“You can’t compare a Canadian preschool with one in a rural community in Ukraine. The government’s budget for education largely goes to the big cities. With the money from the paintings I’ve sold so far, we bought books, educational games and toys, paint in different colours to decorate the school, a printer and even slides and a carousel for the school’s playground. With this project, I want to plant seeds, so these kids can grow and thrive and eventually have a better future.”

You can find Hope for Spring on Facebook. Or contact Igor Darmokhid via

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