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Ukrainians seeking refuge in Calgary worry about support faltering on 2nd anniversary of invasion

A rally was held in Calgary on Saturday to mark the two-year anniversary of Russia’s  invasion of Ukraine.

It was organized by the  Calgary chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Anna Tselukhina, who helped organize the rally, said it’s a way to remember those who have died and to remind the world that the war is  still happening.

She also wants to raise awareness about all the problems Ukraine is facing now.

“Many Ukrainians who came to Calgary have relatives — their parents, especially elderly parents — who weren’t able to escape so quickly, or maybe because they’re older they don’t want to leave their place,” said Tselukhina, whose mother was killed in 2022 in the Luhansk region. “So many of them have the same situation: their parents died and people couldn’t go back to Ukraine for a funeral. So I’m not unique. It’s the reality of Ukrainians now.

“I live in a peaceful country now and I read about shelling in the news. But at the same time, this is what I’m thinking about often. Reading the news, knowing details about prisoners of war, about torture,  about different war crimes committed in Ukraine. My heart is back in Ukraine.”

Nastasiia Shatna clearly remembers two years ago how she was woken by planes flying over her home and the sight of the Dnipro airport in flames.

“I woke up … I just saw airport already burned.  The sounds of the plane —  it was a bomb which flew so close by my house,” she recalled.

Shatna made the difficult decision to leave her parents in Dnipro.

She came to Calgary alone in July 2022 and now volunteers at St. Vladimir’s Church on weekends, where hundreds of recent arrivals still come seeking assistance at the welcome centre there.

“Two years ago, no one could imagine what would have happened, and nobody believes it would be so long. And right now, I can’t believe it’s already been two years,” Shatna said as she helped provide food and clothing for recent arrivals in Calgary on Saturday afternoon.

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Ukrainians who fled the war are now taking over from Canadian volunteers facing burnout from helping for the past two years.

“We rely more on volunteers the last couple of months,” said Olga Matsula, the parish council president at St. Vladimir’s Church. “They are doing a fantastic job.

“The situation in Ukraine didn’t get better. It’s still going on and those people are still coming. We are very grateful we have volunteers, and some of those are from Ukraine who would like to give back. I’m happy that we can provide that support after two years.”

Like other refugees, Shatna isn’t sure where home is right now. She studied international relations in Ukraine and also worked as a software developer in Dnipro.

“I like Ukraine and I didn’t want to leave before. I couldn’t imagine that I could leave,” she said.

“Canada was really so warm and accepts us Ukrainians. Canadians  supported us, and we have such a nice community in Canada.”

Shatna is grateful for all the support, friendship and security she has in Calgary, but worries about her family.

“They are all the time, every day, bombing,” she explained. “My parents are used to living with the sound of sirens day and night. A lot of people have really become crazy.

“Some I know just lost their family. They just lost their house and they can’t see any sense to live their life.”

Two years ago, many people didn’t hold out much hope for Ukraine, but Ukrainians rallied and the resistance in the face of a more powerful adversary helped convince many governments to back Ukraine with billions of dollars.

Shatna said she understands that some people in Canada may be growing weary.

“A lot of people say, ‘It’s two years – it’s too long. Everyone is so tired,’” she said.

A renewed Russian push is being felt across the front line, causing refugees in Calgary to not just worry for their own families, but also for other countries in Europe if Ukraine falls.

The U.S., Canada and other countries gave Ukraine hope that it could win, but now Ukrainians like Shatna worry about support faltering.

“It’s not your life. It’s OK, it’s my life. It’s Ukrainians’ lives. But if everyone stops supporting Ukraine right now, I don’t want to scare people, but it’s possible this war will come to your house,” she said. “Maybe not on your continent. Maybe your house will be OK, but some people would leave for fighting. The next one could be Poland.

“Right now we are trying to save our lives (and) survive in Ukraine with our military. And at the same time, we are trying to protect all the world.”

According to the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, by the end of January 2024, the organization  helped over 12,000 CUAET (Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel) visa holders and referred 6,106 of them to government hotels once services were provided at the airport.

Those figures are since reporting began in June 2022.

Since March 17, 2022, the Canadian government has received 1,189,320 applications. Of those, 958,190 have been approved and 221,231 people have arrived under CUAET.

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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