Not a minute has passed that Ukraine-Canada did not witness the “terrible” siege that took place in their homeland as the Russian invasion sent thousands of people fleeing on foot and by car, they said.
The invasion entered its second day Friday, drawing closer to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv as shootings ripped through local apartment buildings and destroyed bridges and even schools.
“There is a general sense of horror at the unprecedented, cruel and unprovoked military aggression by Russia against Ukraine,” said Eugene Czolij, Ukraine’s honorary consul in Montreal.
The attack was “trying to inflict a lot of pain and suffering [as possible]not only on the military but on the civilian population, with airstrikes on big cities indiscriminately, bombing cities,” he said.
“So it’s a total affront to human life. It’s terrible for all of us.”
Czolij was born in Montreal and is the former president of the World Congress of Ukraine, a non-profit organization representing the diaspora around the world. He is also president of a non-profit organization called Ukraine 2050.
He said he had many friends living in Ukraine with whom he kept in touch.
“They said it was a shock when they woke up in the morning and saw a missile in the middle of the road,” he said.
“And when we see, even a few days before this military aggression, the air attack on the kindergarten [school]they are clearly horrified because we are all with the ruthlessness of the aggression which was not at all provoked by Russia against Ukraine.”
He said there was room for Canada to do more to assist the Ukrainian government in the war effort by offering support for enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace. Russia also needs to be withdrawn from the international Swift payment system, he added, to further strangle the country’s economy.
‘I CALL THEM EVERY DAY’
More than 1.5 million Ukrainians call Canada home and there are more than 43,000 living in Quebec, including Natalia Fedosieieva.
He has lived in Montreal for 15 years and has many family members living in Ukraine, including his in-laws and uncles, as well as cousins he says have recently fled Kyiv.
“I call them every day and everyone is very stressed, of course,” he said.
“However, I can see that they are trying to be calm, calm and not panic, because I think this is the worst thing in this case.”
He said his uncle was trying to stay positive in the hope that the Ukrainian army would fight back and successfully defend their country.
On Friday, a group of people, including people of Russian descent, braved an afternoon blizzard to protest at the Russian consulate in Montreal to condemn the attack in Ukraine.
“It’s scary, to be honest. I wish I could keep on making phone calls with everyone I know in Ukraine, just to find out where they are, what’s going on,” said one protester.
Part of their message was meant for the Canadian government, with some calling for Canada to put more support behind Ukraine than the sanctions had announced, notably by helping arm Ukrainian soldiers so they could help defend their homeland.
PROTEST PLANNING FOR SUNDAY
At Zytynsky’s Deli in Rosemont, the 100-year-old shop has been a focal point for the Ukrainian community since Russia launched its invasion.
“My family is sad, everyone is tense,” said Angel Zytynsky, whose grandfather opened a delicatessen.
“Everyone came into the shop and said, ‘Congratulations, Angel!’ Everyone is full of tension.”
The tension hit home for Greg Bedik, president of the St. Ukrainian Cultural Association. Volodymyr, who still has family in Ukraine.
“It’s terrible. Some of my aunts and uncles have moved from the village to the city to escape the bombs… some are still in the city,” he said.
The Canadian Congress of Ukraine is expected to hold a demonstration of solidarity with Ukraine at 2 p.m. Sunday in downtown Montreal.
–With files from Daniel J. Rowe and Andrew Brennan of CTV Montreal
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