When you can’t make sense of the currency in a different country, the money in your pocket may not be worth the paper it’s printed on.
One of the few stories Bill Romaniuk’s grandfather, Stephan Romaniuk, shared about moving to Canada from northern Ukraine in 1930 left a lasting impression on Bill that’s inspired a fundraiser to assist new arrivals with something most of us take for granted.
“My grandfather didn’t like talking about what he called the old country and his experiences there,” Romaniuk said. “He was a shoemaker before coming to Canada and made high-end boots for the military and the wealthy.
“One story that really stayed with me was that when grandfather arrived in Canada, he had $5 in Ukrainian currency in his pocket. Someone offered to exchange it for Canadian money, and he got ripped off for 80 per cent, which left my grandfather with $1 Canadian. When the war in Ukraine started, it made me think maybe I can do something to ensure that doesn’t happen to people arriving from the Ukraine now.”
Stephan Romaniuk eventually settled in Sudbury, where he worked at the Copper Cliff Smelter for most of his life.
“My grandfather died from cancer caused by his work in 1965,” Romaniuk said. ” He was a major positive influence in my life, and both of my grandparents underlined the importance of working really hard. He was my main inspiration for getting Change for Hope started.”
Change for Hope is a fundraiser for Ukrainians that assists new arrivals with the ins and outs of Canadian currency and helps them financially as well.
“I quickly realized when people arrive here, they need cash right away as well as an understanding of our currency system,” he said. “I discussed it with my brother John and sister Susan who live in Ontario, and they said let’s make it work right away.”
The three siblings worked together on the book’s design and covered the cost of materials and printing. Change for Hope is printed in Canadian and Ukrainian with photographs of Canadian currency, starting with the nickel all the way up to a $100 bill. Each book also contains the corresponding currency in crisp new bills and shiny coins – $188.40 that Romaniuk has painstakingly gathered from local banks.
“We asked people and businesses here and in Ontario for donations to fill the books,” Romaniuk said. “I gave 12 books to families staying at Ukrainian Safe Haven in East Sooke, which helped 32 people. Most got their books two days before Christmas, so it was a timely gift.”
The Sooke Lion’s Club also took some books and filled them with money for the families they’re supporting in Sooke.
So far, 110 booklets have been distributed here and in Ontario.
Victoria Grando, general manager of the Ukrainian Canadian Cultural Society of Vancouver Island, said she’s impressed with Romaniuk’s initiative.
“Many people arriving in a new country don’t understand the currency or even recognize what it looks like,” said Grando, who also serves as secretary for the Canadian Ukrainian Congress.
“Bill’s come up with such a great idea where people can keep the brochure and use the money in it for groceries or whatever they need. Anything helps when you come to a new country, and what Bill’s doing is awesome.”
Romaniuk is also distributing Change for Hope through Help Ukraine VI, which supports and assists Ukrainians arriving in Canada.
“The general manager, Karmen McNamara is a real dynamo,” he said. “I think she raised $4,000 early on by selling perogies. She keeps tabs on every family arriving on the Island and identifies what they need.”
You can send donations for Change for Life by contacting Romaniuk at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail addressed to Change for Life, P.O. box 973, Sooke, B.C., V9Z 1H9.
Romaniuk would like to connect with a registered non-profit organization to set up an account for Change for Life that will provide tax receipts for donations to reach more potential donors.
“That would be awesome,” he said.