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Kelowna Ukrainians ask for government support after Russian invasion

There was a demonstration in front of Kelowna City Hall Feb. 24

Ukrainian-Canadians living in Kelowna are asking for support from the Okanagan community after Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday.

The attack hit cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling. Some civilians piled into trains and cars to flee, while some stayed behind to stay with and protect their families.

A group of more than 50 people of Ukrainian descent gathered in front of city hall on Feb. 24 to show their support for their family and friends back home and to ask the Canadian government to take action.

“I hope that with our little voices here, we can somehow encourage support from Canada,” said Vsevolod Lynov, a Ukrainian-Canadian, worried for his loved ones back home.

Denys Seorozhuk, the organizer of the demonstration, said that Canada and allied forces need to send troops to the border of Ukraine “to show Putin that this isn’t going to be easy.”

Ukrainians in Kelowna are asking for military supplies, support from Canadian troops, sanctions, and financial help (Jacqueline Gelineau/ Capital News)
Ukrainians in Kelowna are asking for military supplies, support from Canadian troops, sanctions, and financial help (Jacqueline Gelineau/ Capital News)

He said that the Canadian government also needs to urgently impose strict sanctions to impact President Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs.

Seorozhuk is urging Canadians to listen to the requests from the Ukrainian ambassador to Canada.

Ambassador Andrii Bukvych said, “our primary request is helmets, armoured jackets, firearms and ammunition.”

“We need sanctions that would fundamentally undermine the ability of the Russian economy to finance aggression and war.”

“My family was woken up early this morning from their windows being shaken by actual explosions,” said Lynov.

A Ukrainian supporter, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that the subway system in much of Ukraine was designed to be used as a bomb shelter. The underground transit system in his home country was built while occupied by the Soviet Union.

“Many people now live in the subway,” he said. “They are deep underground and have drinking fountains installed.”

The Canadian Press reported that on the morning of Friday, Feb. 25 , residents cautiously emerged from the underground subway stations where they had taken shelter, making their way along mostly empty streets amid a snowstorm.

“Everybody is just hiding from the bombs, basically,” said a supporter at the Kelowna rally.

Father Pavlo Myts, the Pastor of the Dorminition Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church in Kelowna said “this is not the first day of the war.”

He explained that the Russo-Ukrainian war started nearly a decade ago when Russia invaded Crimea in 2014.

“This is a completely unprovoked war against a developing democratic country by, really, a fascist regime which is killing regular people,” said a supporter. “They just want to be left in peace. To live their way.”

“The Russians will not stop unless the world gets together,” said Father Myts.

Ukrainian civilians are having to take up arms.

Lynov said that his brother-in-law and father are volunteering for the Ukrainian army.

These men, like many other volunteers, have no prior military experience, said Lynov. His relatives volunteering, and other men enlisting, are being given weapons and are serving on the front lines to protect their families and homes.

“I’m proud of our guys standing there,” said Lynov.

He had a tearful phone call with his grandmother, who is currently living in Odessa.

“She was a little kid when the Second World War started,” said Lynov. He said she fears for her young family members that will have to live through a war as she did.

Lynov also said that his Russian friends have been given alternate news that claims Ukraine attacked first. “That’s nonsense, we are in that war already for eight years,” Lynov said. “We are not going to attack our own territory, like Crimea.”

Seorozhuk said that Russian and Georgian citizens in Kelowna came to the demonstration to show their support for Ukraine.

Peter Bihun, president of the Dolyna Ukrainian Cultural Society, said “Write your MLA and MP. Make sure that Canada is solidly behind this.”

Support can be sent to the Emergency Humanitarian Aid to the People of Ukraine, organized by CNEWA Canada. Support for the beleaguered Ukrainians can also be sent through the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and Canada-Ukraine Foundation, who have established a humanitarian fund.

READ MORE: ‘From worrying, to frightening’: Okanagan Ukrainians express concern over Russian invasion

READ MORE: Concern for Ukraine and handling of Ottawa protest from Okanagan MPs


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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