Yuri is a bear. He’s a cute, hand-knitted teddy from Australia.
Yuri can also be a 40-something member of Ukraine’s safety forces, taking part in his half in that nation’s warfare in opposition to one of many world’s strongest armies.
Now a venture is underway to ship 20,000 Yuri bears from Australia to Ukraine to consolation 1000’s of kids displaced by the Russian invasion.
The bears are impressed by Yuri who, 29 years in the past, was a sponsored foster youngster who got here to Australia as an 11-year-old boy. His dad and mom had been first responders to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe and despatched him to the opposite facet of the world to be protected.
Now a husband and father, Yuri has evacuated his family from Ukraine whereas staying behind to defend his nation.
Debra Richardson took in Yuri as a foster youngster for a number of months in 1993, however then misplaced contact with him for 3 many years. They later reconnected because of the web and persistence.
“I despatched one million emails out to anybody I may discover who was named Yuri. That was in about 2018 and I did not hear something for a 12 months,” Debra stated.
“Then I received a message out of the blue someday saying, ‘Hey my Australian mummy’.
“It stated, ‘It’s me, it’s Yuri, I am at work however I am going to message you after I get residence’.
“We have had many conversations after which, again on February 23 this 12 months, we received these stories Russia was going to invade Ukraine,” Debra stated.
“By means of the course of the following few weeks he wanted to evacuate his household from Kiev.
“He’s in Kiev however has been to the entrance line and seen issues no-one ought to ever need to see.”
A need to assist
The Yuri bear venture began as a must do one thing – something — to assist. What began as a small gesture has grown into one thing larger.
“For weeks I used to be asking what I may do to assist. I used to be feeling very helpless sitting on the opposite facet of the world and never understanding what we may do to assist Yuri,” Debra stated.
“Finally in one in all our calls I stated: ‘Yuri, I knit. Can I assist by sending children some teddy bears?””
“He stated, ‘That may be wonderful as a result of the youngsters don’t have anything. Many needed to pack up and go away on the drop of a hat’.
“I believed initially I may knit 100 and possibly get the area people behind me and make a thousand.”
In honour of Yuri
Debra enlisted the assist of her employer Ryman Healthcare, which runs retirement aged care houses throughout Australia and New Zealand.
“We now have the assist of an entire heap of aged people who find themselves serving to to knit these teddy bears,” Debra stated.
“So Challenge Yuri Bear, named in honour of my foster son was born, and we set a goal of 20,000.”
After Debra despatched Yuri some footage of the bears which had already been knitted, Yuri stated he was humbled and overwhelmed.
As soon as the 20,000 Yuri bears are made and picked up, they are going to be distributed from the Ukraine-Polish border by an assist organisation.
“I’ve spoken to our residents and so a lot of them say it has given them a way of function and neighborhood,” Debra stated.
“They [the children in Ukraine] will have one thing they’ll name their very own, that when they’re scared they can provide it a hug, they usually’ll really feel the love that each one in all our contributors have put into them.”
Arriving with simply a tiny backpack
Debra recollects Yuri’s arrival in Australia in 1993. He had little greater than a lot of these youngsters displaced in Ukraine.
“My husband and I have been cops on the time and there was a name put out asking if there have been any police households that wish to foster and sponsor youngsters from the victims of Chernobyl for 4 weeks,” Debra stated.
“We didn’t know who we have been getting. We simply knew they have been aged between seven and 15, and we needed to come out on a chilly and darkish evening to the police academy, and there have been about 300 children.
“Yuri had a tiny backpack, with a few pairs of underpants, a shirt, a jumper and he had on some denims that did not match.
“He nearly arrived with nothing.”
After 12 weeks in Australia, Yuri returned to Kiev, simply in time for Christmas.
There was a thank-you message from Yuri’s mom however then they misplaced contact — till Debra’s perseverance led to Yuri discovering his “Australian mummy” once more.
The nice Yuri bear knit is underway by means of September.
If you need to make a Yuri bear to be given to youngsters in Ukraine, a sample and directions are on www.rymanhealthcare.com.au/yuri-bears-for-ukraine.