FILE — The Rossland United Church Women’s Group recently donated $1000 to the West Kootenay Friends of Refugee. From left, Piper, Vivian Oh, Ruta Zakarias, LunLun San, Aung KoKo Latt and Teysin Misto. (Chelsea Novak/Black Press)

FILE — The Rossland United Church Women’s Group recently donated $1000 to the West Kootenay Friends of Refugee. From left, Piper, Vivian Oh, Ruta Zakarias, LunLun San, Aung KoKo Latt and Teysin Misto. (Chelsea Novak/Black Press)

Eritrean family says goodbye to Rossland

Rossland’s Eritrean family is relocating to the Lower Mainland.

Rossland’s Eritrean family is relocating to the Lower Mainland.

In August 2015, Ruta Zakarias and her two sons Eyobed and Yonathan arrived at the Castlegar airport from Cairo, where they had been living for a year and a half after escaping from Eritrea.

The West Kootenay Friends of Refugees sponsored the single mother with help from many local donors.

In the three years since she arrived, Ruta has become a real Rosslander, coping with snow and cold while her kids have learned to cross-country ski, skate and downhill.

She has been working to earn her high school diploma equivalency and master English while her boys have been attending Rossland Summit School in kindergarten and Grade 1.

Ruta’s goal is to become a care aide.

Late in 2017, the family was reunited with Gidewen Melake, the boys’ father and Ruta’s husband.

He had been living in Uganda with relatives when he was able to locate Ruta and ask if it was possible to come to Canada to join his family. It took some time and a lot of paperwork, but eventually, the West Kootenay Friends were able to make it happen.

Gidewen had hoped to get a job in Rossland, but when this didn’t happen, he decided to try the Lower Mainland, where members of the Eritrean community in that area offered to help him find work.

He has now rented an apartment near a school and the family is ready to reunite once more in Burnaby, near the Christian Orthodox Church and the Eritrean community that has been helping Gidewen get settled.

On Saturday, March 17, Ruta and her boys boarded a bus and headed to their new home. Thanks to the generosity of Rob LeRose of Home Goods, their possessions followed in a truck.

While the members of the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees will miss Ruta, Yonathan and Eyobed, they wish them well in the next phase of their lives in Canada.

Ruta would like to thank everyone who has made her family feel welcome. She has received incredible support and encouragement from the local community in so many ways.