Oleksandr (Sasha) Kondrashov, PhD
In Canada, September 30 is associated with the Orange Shirt Day when communities are coming together in a reconciliation and hope spirit because of every child matters. The day is recognizing the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and well-being. It is an affirmation of our commitment to ensure that everyone around us matters.
Over the years, I heard many stories from my Indigenous students who were survivors of Canada’s residential school system. Each story was unique and reminded me stories I heard in Ukraine from people who attended “internats” and Ukrainian-Canadians who were part of Canada’s boarding school system. Many stories focus on the loss of love, culture, family, language, and home; experience of abuse, trauma, and violence. Each survivor had their “Orange Shirt” taken away. For some, it was a ribbon shirt or skirt, vyshyvanka or other pieces of clothing or artifacts that symbolizes family, love, care, support, culture, pride, belonging, and peace. Each story focused on loss, grief and trauma that changed survivors’ lives forever. Many stories share multiple sufferings survivors experienced while regaining their strengths, pride, culture, language and dignity. Some had more supports available to them; others were not that fortunate. I carry those stories in my teachings and encourage students to listen to stories from primary sources, read memoirs, and research the truth. For me, the “orange shirt” day is every day, and every child matter every day and everywhere. Every story counts. I am hopeful that a new generation of children will know stories from the past, support survivors of abuse and violence, and create ways to stop any future harms from happening. I also hope that together we allow everyone to experience love, care and share from their families and those who support their personal and professional growth and development of individual and collective gifts.
In Ukraine, September 30 is associated with the day of Mother Sophia (Wisdom) and three Daughters Vira (Faith), Nadijya (Hope), and Lubov (Love). Their story is also very tragic as Roman Emperor Hadrian followers killed them because they practiced Christian beliefs and values. When I read the story of Sophia, Vira, Nadija and Lubov, review names of 2900 children who died while attended residential schools, and listen to some of the stories from 150 000 residential school survivors, I question the actions of those who forcefully remove children from loving homes and call it “assimilation”. I condemn those who use “good Intentions” to promote hate, abuse and violence. I question those who say that they practice love, care, and support while harming families and communities in Canada, Ukraine and globally.
September 30 might have additional meaning for you. Some might celebrate the UN International Translation Day as an act to recognize the role of professional translation in connecting nations. Others might celebrate Botswana’s Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on September 30, 1966. For me, it is a very special day as my Canadian Mama was born today, and I am thankful to be able to experience many things in life because of having Audrey’s presence in every day I have been in Canada. I know that every child who meets Audrey through the professional social work practice and beyond will experience the love, care and share that Audrey offers to everyone as every child matters!