Just one day after Russia sent two long-range, nuclear-capable bombers into patrol over Belarus, accelerating already-mounting tensions, Kingstonians gathered at Kingston City Hall to show their solidarity with Ukraine, the Belarussian neighbour currently at odds with Russia.
Part of the international ‘Stand with Ukraine’ movement, the rally here in Kingston was organized by the Ukrainian-Canadian Club of Kingston, and saw over 50 people come together to join in the demonstration on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022. The day before, the Russian military furthered the escalating pressures of the Russo-Ukrainian war, which began in 2014, by deploying the two Tu-22M3 bombers to train in interacting with the Belarussian air force – Belarus borders Ukraine to the north, just 75 kilometres from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv – after similar patrols over Belarus in the weeks before, according to the Associated Press.
In Canada, the Stand with Ukraine movement has been spearheaded by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, who invited all Canadians to “join the #StandWithUkraine campaign and show your support for the Ukrainian peoples’ right to live free and in peace in their own land,” according to the organization’s website.
“In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine. Over 13,000 people have been killed. Today, Russia is massing troops and weapons and threatening a further invasion of Ukraine. Russia is a threat to peace in Europe and international security. Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence must be protected. Now is the time for Canada and its allies to help Ukraine,” a video on the Ukrainian Canadian Congress website explains.
Here in Kingston, the Ukrainian Canadian Club of Kingston decided to take up the mantle from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ invitation.
“Although Kingston’s Ukrainian community is small, it has historic roots in this city, going back over 100 years, and… has been quite active on various cultural, educational, and historical issues, including the annual Folklore-Lviv Ukraine pavilion,” said Club President Lubomyr Luciuk, who is also a professor of Political Geography at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC).
Earlier in the week, Luciuk applied to Kingston City Council to have City Hall illuminated in the national colours of Ukraine, blue and yellow, as part of the Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, movement, “to show solidarity with Ukraine at this time of crisis,” which was passed by Council on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. As such, City Hall reflected the Ukrainian colours onto the waters of the fountain in Confederation Park where those in attendance – both from the Canadian-Ukrainian Club of Kingston and from the broader Kingston community – gathered with signs and flags to show their support.
“The response received was heartening – not only did we enjoy the support of Mayor Bryan Paterson and City Council, but a number of our fellow citizens came by last night to show their solidarity,” Luciuk said on Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.
“Obviously, given the time of year, we did not expect a large number, but were gratified by those who turned out, and those who signalled their support by honking and otherwise showing their understanding.”
Luciuk went on to explain why the demonstration was so important to himself as well as other members of the local Ukrainian-Canadian community.
“We stood there because doing so was the right thing to do, especially at a time when Ukraine is under threat from Russia, yet again. Keep in mind that Ukraine did not invade Russia, but that it was Russia which invaded Crimea and then eastern Ukraine in 2014, and which continues to wage war against Ukraine, causing great loss of life and property,” he detailed.
“Ukraine is defending itself and we wanted to make sure our fellow citizens are aware of that and of our hope that Canada will provide the Ukrainians with what they most need now: defensive military hardware.”
Those locally wanting to support Ukraine can do so through a GoFundMe that is providing humanitarian relief to those Ukrainians in need, Luciuk said, noting that the Province of Saskatchewan has already donated $100,000 to the fund, which has a goal of $1.5 million, and that other provinces, including Ontario, are expected to follow suit in the week ahead.
“Russian threats to invade Ukraine again pose the largest threat to international global security since WWII. The Ukrainian people will fight to defend their homeland and, in doing so, will prevent the spread of Russian aggression,” the GoFundMe account, created by the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, reads.
“Russia’s aggression will result in one of the largest humanitarian crises of this century. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Ukrainians will be displaced, forced to flee their homeland.”