On a rainy Wednesday morning outside Vernon city hall, Mayor Victor Cumming stood under a blue-and-white umbrella and declared support and solidary on behalf of the city for the blue-and-yellow of Ukraine.
After Cumming and well-known Vernon Ukrainian community member Andrea Malysh finished addressing a crowd of close to 75 gathered outside city hall’s main entrance, Ukraine’s flag was unfurled above the entrance between the flags of Canada and B.C. with Rev. Stepan Dovhoshyia of Vernon’s St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church leading the singing of the Ukraine national anthem.
“These are unimaginable, unnecessary, and heartbreaking circumstances,” said Cumming. “To our Ukrainian-Canadian neighbours and friends, and all Ukrainians around the world, we cannot fully imagine the concern or grief you may be feeling as news of this invasion continues to progress.
“We stand alongside you, offering our thoughts and prayers for this tragic violence to end; for the health and protection of those who are defending their home; and for the comfort and care of everyone who is being impacted by these events.”
Malysh thanked the city for its show of solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
“Family and friends are fighting for their lives,” she said. “Ukrainians are fighting for democracy and freedom because the alternative is unacceptable. They must fight. Ukraine is their home.
“History shows that Ukrainians are resilient, spirited and tough people. These are the traits that sustained them in the past and will help carry them through the difficult times ahead.”
Malysh decried Russian president Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, calling him a war criminal who must be held accountable for his crimes against humanity.
More than 650,000 Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia invaded Feb. 24.
There are ways North Okanagan residents can help those in Ukraine.
A GoFundMe campaign launched by the Canada-Ukraine Foundation is encourating people to use #HelpUkraineNow on social media. The campaign, as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, has raised $1.3 million.
The Canadian Red Cross has launched the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal. The Government of Canada matched the first $10 million donated to the fund, while the province of B.C. pledged $1 million to Red Cross.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress also accepts donations on its website at ucc.ca.
The Ukrainian flag will fly at Vernon city hall for a three weeks.
“May those of Ukrainian heritage know that you are not alone,” said Cumming.