Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is hitting close to home for Comox Valley resident Sviatoslav Pylypchuk. He was raised in Ukraine, studied in the capital of Kyiv, and only moved to Canada 9 years ago. Both he and his wife Olena have family and friends throughout the country.
“So far, everyone is OK. It’s constant running down to the basement and bomb shelters, but everyone is safe for now,” Pylypchuk told Black Press.
These are equally stressful times for Stefan Szkwarek, a first-generation Ukrainian-Canadian, former RCAF officer and site manager of the new Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Training Centre. His parents and grandparents moved to Canada after World War II, but he has extended family caught in the war zone.
Szkwarek and Pylypchuk belong to a tight-knit community of Islanders with Ukrainian roots. They are teaming up to organize a rally in support of Ukraine this weekend. Dubbed “Comox Valley Stands With Ukraine,” the rally is being held at 1 pm Saturday, March 5, at the Comox Marina.
“Everyone is welcome. It’s a moment of solidarity, not just among Ukrainians but among everybody who wants democracy and freedom because that’s what this is all about,” Szkwarek said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is being widely condemned for his brutal attempt to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government. The Russian military is not only shelling infrastructure, but also civilian targets in Ukraine. Already the International Criminal Court has announced plans to investigate alleged war crimes,
At the same time, people worldwide have been galvanized by the leadership of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as citizens of the country rally around this former comedian and actor to resist the Russian invasion.
“The world is seeing what Ukrainians are all about. It’s unfortunate that it is happening under these circumstances, but the bravery and resilience are amazing to watch. It’s inspiring to everyone,” Szkwarek said.
The event organizers say they plan to record Saturday’s rally in Comox so that they can share it with people in Ukraine.