“Putin has created this plan in his head that three brother nations which are Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are to unite again in this one big country.”
Nataliia Savenko has been in Canada over 10 years. She is originally from Mykolaiv in the south of her homeland near Crimea. She has made Lloydminster her home but her heart grieves for the land of her birth as Russian soldiers since Thursday have been attacking Ukraine.
Her hometown is on a river with a port that has access to the Black Sea. It is under attack for its location and she says her friends back home tell her about the shooting and bombings.
“What’s disturbing is the groups of Russians undercover are going around the town marking the roofs of the city with different signs that are going to lead to the airstrikes. They are directing them with arrows and a red circle and the local government is asking if you see that, try to wipe it off.”
Nataliia is in Canada with her immediate family and lives in Lloydminster with her husband and children, but her childhood friends are still back home. Her friends have little choice but to seek shelter in the bunkers when the sirens go off and the bombing begins. She is asking for more penalties to be placed on Russia but she also wants the international community to not delay its action.
“More sanctions. We need support; that’s immediate, right now. If you are willing to send help for us, send it now. Don’t discuss it for days because every hour matters. Every minute matters. Things are changing day by day and cities are being taken and innocent people are dying. And there’s no excuse for Putin.”
With over 100,000 people fleeing their homeland as of Friday morning, Ukrainian officials are reporting over 137 people dead and over 300 injured. As well they claim some 1000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the conflict.
Another Ukrainian-Canadian resident in Lloydminster with his family is Maryan Levandovsky. His family hails from west Ukraine in the Ivano-Frankivsk region where the airport has been attacked. He went back to the history of the problems with Russia prior to World War One and shared on issues that unfolded in the 1930’s under Josef Stalin who starved nearly 4 million Ukrainians to death, some 13 per cent of the population.
Levandovsky shares his recollection of events just after World War One.
“Then they took over east Ukraine. We were lucky in west Ukraine as we were at that time under Poland, so this is why we saved our language, our culture and our religion; Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic. But east Ukraine was not lucky like that.”
Levandovsky says their language and culture was prohibited and everyone had to learn to speak Russian. He sees the issues of separation to protect Russian interests in eastern Ukraine as a pretext.
“They say they are coming to protect Russians because we have Russians, but did somebody ask those Russians if they want to go to Russia. In my time, I wanted to come to Canada, so I came to Canada. I did not bring Canada to Ukraine.”
Olga Ozymchuk who came to Canada from Ternopil in western Ukraine is also in the Border City with her immediate family, but she describes the situation as terrifying for their family members back home.
“Our hearts are just there with them right now.”
Her voice trailed off as the emotional pain took over. When she regained her composure she called on Russia to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine.
“We are fine. Just leave us alone. Just give us a break from all of that horrible terrifying stuff. We just want peace in our country.”