Leo Popov, a grade 6 student at Maple Ridge’s newest school, cusquenela elementary in Albion. (Colleen Flanagan – THE NEWS)

From Russia with love

Students in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows create art showing what the holidays mean to them.

Every year, for as long as anyone can recall, we ask students from Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows elementary schools to depict what the holidays mean to them, and select one for the front page. This year, those from the district’s newest school, cusqunela elementary, and others from Laity View and Highland Park obliged. We thank them for sharing. All are available to view in a slideshow included with this article. The front page drawing is by Leo Popov, who’s in Grade 6 at cusqunela. The story of Leo’s art follows.


The face, etched in pencil, inset in a TV with rabbit ears, is unmistakable.

Behind the face is the Kremlin in Moscow, with splashes of yellow, red, green, pink and blue fireworks igniting the night sky.

The TV is on a square table. Above it, a glittery red ornament hangs from a fir branch, with more bursts of fireworks.

The image depicts Russian President Vladimir Putin giving his annual New Year’s address to the nation.

It was drawn by Leo Popov, a grade 6 student at Maple Ridge’s newest school, cusquenela elementary in Albion.

Every December, students at a few schools in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are asked to create art showing what the holidays mean to them.

Some colour nativity scenes and snowmen, or draw fireplaces lined with stockings or families passing out presents.

Often, someone illustrates the Grinch.

Leo, 11, drew Putin.

“I decided I was going to draw that because that’s what I’m waiting for the whole New Year’s Day,” said the Grade 6 student who emigrated from Russia 18 months ago.

Putin’s address is capped off by fireworks after he wishes the country a happy new year.

Every year since Leo was three, he and his family have gathered outside around his grandmother’s television set in Russia to watch the address.

“Russian president says a big speech about how the year go. It went good, he gives thanks to everyone for doing good things for Russia and then he says, ‘happy new year,’ and then we all cheer and celebrate,” said Leo, who moved to Maple Ridge a year ago.

RELATED: Name announced for new Maple Ridge school.

His family came to Canada six months prior to that from Kursk, a seven-hour drive southwest of Moscow and close to the Ukraine border, for a safer life with more opportunities.

They decided on B.C. because of its nature and beauty, Leo said.

They first stayed in Port Coquitlam, then Coquitlam before settling in Maple Ridge.

Last year, Leo attended Webster’s Corners elementary and returned to Russia for the holidays.

He holds fond memories of Christmas in Russia.

The whole day, he said, his mother and grandmother would make a large dinner that would include Shashlik, a skewered meat.

Sometimes they would prepare it with vinegar to make it more sour, or sometimes with just onion.

His grandmother would let the meat stand one day before his father and grandfather would cook it over an open flame.

In Russia, Leo said, there is no Santa Claus, but rather Ded Moroz – or Grandpa Frost – who is tall and thin, as opposed to short and stout.

Ded Moroz traditionally wore a blue and white outfit, although now he also dons red and white.

Ded Moroz has a helper, his granddaughter, whose name is Snegurochka. She helps him deliver presents to put under decorated trees on new year’s eve.

She usually wears a long silver and blue robe with a furry cap and a snowflake-like crown.

Ded Moroz does not have reindeer, Leo added, but instead gets around by riding a Russian troika – a sled pulled by three horses, who are named after three different types of winter weather.

This will be Leo’s first Christmas in Canada.

Leo and his five-year-old sister will be hanging stockings over their fireplace for the first time, a tradition that does not take place in Russia.

He is also looking forward to walking the neighbourhood to see the decorated houses.

When he first arrived in Canada, Leo did not speak English.

So in school, he would draw.

“The only way I could, not make friends, but make people pay attention to me, was by art,” Leo said.

He’s going to miss Christmas in Russia this year, especially being in his grandmother’s big garden and playing with his friends.

He will try to watch the national address, likely when it’s available on Youtube.

He enjoys the speech, even though he doesn’t like President Putin.

“You are like eating his words like dessert.”

For Leo, it’s more about being around family.



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Leo Popov, a grade 6 student at Maple Ridge’s newest school, cusquenela elementary in Albion. (Colleen Flanagan – THE NEWS)

Leo Popov’s holiday art.

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