When Linda Rudachyk left Weyburn for Rosthern 11 years ago, she thought she might retire from volunteerism. But anyone who got to know her throughout her 40 years in our community, knows that's certainly not her style.
In fact, she and her sister Betty Rudachyk were nominated by the Mayor of Rosthern for the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal, and on Tuesday they were honoured.
"This medal allows us to honour Her Majesty's commitment to service and pay tribute to Saskatchewan citizens who have devoted their time and effort to serving others in Canada, Saskatchewan and their communities," Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty said.
Premier Scott Moe said he was pleased to have the opportunity to thank these 70 Saskatchewan people for their dedication to our province and its communities.
"It was very humbling to be in the company that I was," shared Rudachyk.
"This was the inaugural presentation and, apparently the premier chose 70 people to come to the inaugural one, where there would be the more pomp and circumstance and there's going to be a number of them awarded throughout the year. But this was the first one and it was very beautiful."
A total of 7,000 medals will be awarded throughout the Platinum Jubilee year, which ends on February 5th, 2023.
Rudachyk said the ceremony was 'low key'. "But, you know, I admire the Lieutenant Governor so much, and I told him that! I was able to tell him that right to his face and give him a hug."
"I was honoured to be honoured along with people like George Reed, and Yann Martel, and people who, to me, are our heroes. And I don't see myself as a hero in any which way. These are people who are really brilliant, really paved the way in the arts and the culture and in philanthropy and things like that. And I'm not one of those, but I certainly was pleased to receive the award."
Rudachyk said when she and her husband, Greg Bobbitt, moved to Rosthern in 2011, she saw a need for help and immediately became involved in helping set up the local food bank there. Among other things, she also got involved in Ukrainian dance.
"But, then the war hit, and that's near and dear to my heart, because that's my people."
"All of us were feeling so helpless and hopeless, and watching what was happening in our homeland, and so my sister and I just thought, 'look, what can we do? Like, could we do something, really?'"
They put up an online auction for the town of Rosthern to help support the people of Ukraine, and ended up raising $35,000 in just two weeks, to help with things like medical supplies.
"We were getting getting responses, things people made, cash donated, and people were buying from all over. We were shipping Borscht to Calgary and shipping all over Canada."
After that, Linda spearheaded forming a community committee to bring displaced Ukranians to Rosthern.
"We can't control what's happening there. We can control what's happening with us."
"So we gathered a bunch of earth angels, just like I used to do in Weyburn," she shared. "I would surround myself with people who were the best, and within a month we raised about $35,000. And then we started to to work with the placement people in Saskatoon so that we would start having families come, and we support them."
She said their first family was a family of seven. However, the lack of available housing in Rosthern became a perceivable concern. So, renovating a home was the only option.
According to Linda, the houses seemed to come up out of nowhere.
"I'm not even a religious nut, but it came to us from heaven, that house for seven people, and we transformed it with volunteers and donations."
She said the second family is a single expecting mother.
"She's a soldier in Ukraine and her husband is fighting, and she wants to be able to have her baby in a hospital that's not going to be bombed. And so we have her here now, and she's going to have a baby in two weeks and we're all fighting over who goes in the labour room."
A third family, of five, will arrive soon as well, for whom they are currently fixing up another house.
"They fled in April, and they have an extremely special needs child. So I think the Saskatoon Ukrainian Congress determined that we can handle maybe a little bit more complicated things," she noted.
Then there is the paperwork, and health numbers, and all the rest of the process with which to assist the refugees.
"They're so gracious and they are so humble, and they all have PTSD," noted Linda, saying they call it 'warbrain'. "It comes through horrendous things and their children have it, too. It's ongoing."
"But, by golly, we just love them, and they love us, and they're fitting in. It's beautiful to see they're living in safety. We're providing everything for them for a little while, there again from donations. Like they just keep pouring and we're not even asking anymore, like just the kind of community we're in."
People just wanted to help, noted Linda, adding that when the families first arrived, they received three meals each day, delivered by different people.
"So, because they're tired and they've come across the world, if somebody can make a big pot of borscht, and bread to bring over, that's a wonderful contribution. They love that."
"I have always said there's no 'I' in team, and certainly Betty and I got an award for this, but we took it through for the team that we work with and our community because our community, this small community, is 1,600 people and it's just opened its heart to the folks that are here and the ones that are coming and that doesn't happen in a big city. I know that will happen in Weyburn."
Linda said she has appreciated the fanfare coming from Weyburn on Facebook.
"I don't really like the fanfare, but it's really nice to have people contact me, and I miss Weyburn, always, it will always be in our hearts."