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

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.



Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


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

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.

Leo Popov’s holiday art.

Just Posted

LETTER: Writer questions spread of variant and timing of vaccinations

Will there ever be a return to normal, or will people need to invest in respirators?

A family of geese wandered through the beach area of Whonnock Lake recently. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
VIDEO: Whonnock Lake visitors marvel at cute goslings

Defecating fowl can also bring with them potential issues for Maple Ridge park

Edward Wang shared this picture of an alpaca amid a field of hay in Pitt Meadows, seeking a little shade under the summer-like skies. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Grazing in the field

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

Sandie Bannie is opposed to Pitt Meadows council move to put an RCMP detachment in a park. (Special to The News)
LETTER: Pitt Meadows resident opposed to costly RCMP detachment for small population

Letter writer urges residents to voice opposition before June 28 deadline

Dylan Ross, a Maple Ridge resident for 25 years, is like so many other local residents. He gravitates to the local trails and waterways for a little relaxation. He shared a few pictures along the local dikes near Sharpe Road during a recent kayaking adventure. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Regular relaxation retreat

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Most Read