WHEN Tessa Doab from Newcastle West was choosing her bridesmaids for her wedding last Saturday, there was one little girl she knew she couldn’t do without.
For the past seven years, 13-year-old Belarusian Nacia Tsarykevich has travelled 2,000km to spend her summers with the Doab family as part of Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International project.
In that time, Nacia has become such a beloved part of their family that Tessa knew that when she was tying the knot with Ollie O’Connor from Knockaderry last Saturday, Nacia had to be up at the altar alongside her.
Tessa’s father Liam said that since Nacia first summered with them at the tender age of six, he and his wife Helen have come to see her as a cherished member of their family.
“Nacia’s been coming over to us for the last seven years. She was the first Chernobyl child we hosted. In fairness, it was pretty daunting for her. She was only six at the time, and coming to a strange country to a strange family was a big ask.
“But we’ve had her back every summer since. We love her, she’s part of the family. She knows the place, she’s made her own friends locally. She’s an only child, so we knew this might be her only chance to be a bridesmaid.”
Nacia, whose full name is Anastasia, lives in Soligorsk, Belarus with her parents. Last Saturday, as the dour July weather broke into glorious sun for just one day, Nacia stood as a bridesmaid alongside Tessa’s sister Tara and her cousin Natalie Hayden.
“She had a ball. There was a beam on her face all day,” Liam said of Nacia. “She loves the camera too, so she’d no problem when people were coming up to her asking to take pictures. She was delighted.”
Tessa and Ollie met in 2005, and in February 2009 they emigrated to Sydney together. They are both sticking around at home for a few weeks before returning to Australia, and intend on honeymooning later in the year.
“We had a great day,” Liam said. “We had a ball. It was lovely to have the whole family all back together.”
Since they first took Nacia in seven years ago, the Doab family have been actively involved with Chernobyl Children International. As well as Nacia, the family are this summer also taking care of 15-year-old Belarusian orphan Dima Lazouski.