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Ukrainian community gathers for anti-war demonstration outside B.C. Legislature

Hurt, concern, anxiety felt among those with Ukraine ties as they showed solidarity at legislature

Months of speculation about a possible invasion served as a prelude to Russia’s military attack on Ukraine that brought a rising death toll in the European country through Thursday, and also brought tears to the eyes of people in Victoria.

More than 50 members of the local Ukrainian community gathered outside the B.C. legislature on Feb. 24, less than 24 hours after Russia started its assault on the former Soviet state.

Mascara stained the cheeks of Nataliia Kuksa as she spoke to others who, like her, have strong ties to Ukraine. Her family and friends there awoke at 5 a.m. to the Russian artillery bombardment after they chose to stay in their city to help provide medical help to those in need. Kuksa was up through the night calling everybody back in Ukraine that she could, trying to get them to wake up and prepare by going to get essentials.

The daughter of a Russian mother and Ukrainian father, the Kyiv-born Kuksa has a holistic view of the two country’s relations. She solely blames Russian President Vladimir Putin for the warfare, saying he wants to be tsar of the world.

“It is not a war between people or cultures of nations, we’re all brothers and sisters, we’re all cultures who largely respect each other.”

READ: Canada brings in stronger sanctions after Russia strikes Ukraine

Robert Herchak said he, and the sizable Greater Victoria contingent with connections to Ukraine, have family members who are potentially at risk.

“Many are directly impacted,” he said. “There’s a lot of hurt, a lot of emotional concern right now.”

Tuesday night saw the first reports of explosions in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, a city of three million people. That development in the years-long unrest brought feelings of shock, dismay and extreme anxiety over Herchak. He fears things will go back to how they were when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union.

“To see a potential revulsion to that is appalling.”

Fresh rounds of the sanctions Thursday from both the Canadian and U.S. governments likely won’t have an immediate impact on the Russian assault, Herchak said, but he thinks those could affect the long-term operation.

“Is that enough, I honestly don’t know. I think everybody is just waiting to see.”

Thursday’s solidarity gathering at the legislature was a symbol of freedom Ukrainians still lack, Herchak said, pointing to how they’re still subject to Russia warping information. Kuksa said Russian disinformation and propaganda campaigns are impacting her family in that country.

“They still don’t believe that other parts of their family is (being) attacked by (the) Russian Federation,” she said.

She called on the Ukrainian community to show their solidarity from wherever they are in the world and hopes for an announcement of peace in the coming hours. But by calling that “magical,” she hints at its likelihood.

READ: Victoria’s Ukrainian community concerned for loved ones amid uncertainty at Ukraine-Russia border Follow us on Instagram. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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