While there was a sombre mood amongst those gathered in the end-of-February cold, there was also a very strong presence of hope, compassion, and solidarity.
On the last day of February 2022, approximately 150 people came together in Confederation Park across from Kingston City Hall to rally in support of Ukraine, which has fallen under Russian invasion since President Vladimir Putin’s military entered the sovereign nation on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Organized by the Kingston Interfaith Community, the event was intended as a means for those in the community to offer “Prayers for Peace in light of the incursions in the Ukraine.” The demonstration involved members and leaders of 11 different faith and spiritual groups, according to the organization, who expressed the desire to “gather to support the Kingston Ukrainian community, as well as Kingston Russian families and individuals who do not support this war and the violence inflicted on innocent people.”
Reverend Valerie Kelly, a priest with the Anglican Diocese of Ontario and the Coordinator of the Justice and Peace Commission here in Kingston, was in attendance, as the bright sun beamed down offering respite from the -15C cold. The Commission, she explained, had recently sent a letter to the local Ukrainian church in a gesture of support. The morning of the prayer rally, Kelly received a “very kind and thoughtful” letter in response. Supporting those with the local Ukrainian church was one of the reasons she wanted to attend the lunch hour event, she said.
“My heart breaks for the Ukrainian people, and the people in the past who have had Russian infiltration in those countries,” Rev. Kelly expressed.
“So, I’m here to support and pray for the people of Ukraine.”
After months of Ukraine cautioning the world of impending attack by its neighbour, the Russian military entered and began bombing major Ukrainian cities – including the capital, Kyiv – last week. Since then, hundreds of Ukrainian civilians have died, while others have taken up arms after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy opened up the country’s armouries for the public to protect themselves, their land, and the country just a day after Russia’s mounting insurrection. International authorities, including the UK Ministry of Defense and the Ukrainian government itself, estimate that nearly 700 Ukrainians have died as a result of the conflict and thousands have fled the country seeking refuge in neighbouring European countries.
Here in Kingston, the local Ukrainian community brought the pending conflict between Ukraine and Russia to the attention of the community in advance of the Russian invasion on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, during the #StandWithUkraine movement. Since the invasion began, local Ukrainian-Canadians have expressed disappointment, shock, and serious concern regarding the current situation. Tonight, on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, Ukrainian students from Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College are coming together with the larger Kingston Ukrainian community to discuss the current conflict, what they can do to help, and how the local community can support those efforts.
Kingstonist will continue to provide coverage of local response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the situation progresses.