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Vernon, Kelowna show support for Ukraine, 2 years after Russia’s invasion

Events to show solidarity and call out ‘genocidal war of aggression’ took place Saturday, Feb. 24

Saturday marked two years since Russia invaded Ukraine, and as the war between the two countries continues to defy international norms, people in Vernon and Kelowna gathered to show solidarity with Ukrainians and denounce Russian aggression.

Andrea Malysh, president of the Thompson Okanagan branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, organized and spoke at a ceremony at Vernon City Hall Feb. 24. A similar event was held by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress at Kelowna’s Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

“Today we pay tribute to the kids of Ukrainian people and honour the memory of the thousands of innocent people murdered by Russia’s genocidal war of aggression against Ukraine,” Malysh said before a crowd of people at the event, many of them Ukrainian newcomers who have had to flee their war-torn country.

Malysh said the Ukrainian Canadian Congress continues to collect donations to aid Ukraine, and thanked local organizations who have stepped up to meet the need over the past two years.

“Organizations both within Ukraine and on the international stage are working tirelessly to address the affected population,” she said.

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold spoke at the event.

“The people of Ukraine have stood strong against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s aggression with determination to keep their homeland free and democratic. The strength of the Ukrainian people is remarkable and something that the world is watching, and I believe all of you and millions of other Canadians stand with the people of Ukraine in full support against Russia’s attack,” Arnold said.

Arnold welcomed all Ukrainians present who have found refuge in the North Okanagan, and said the 1.3 million people of Ukrainian origin living in Canada are “an important part of our social fabric.”

“Whether this is a temporary home for you or if you become permanent residents or citizens, we hope you find friendship and support,” Arnold said.

Kathy Zozula offered a poetic speech about the history of Ukrainian oppression under the Iron Curtain and Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union after the Second World War, drawing from her parents’ experiences living in Ukraine under that regime. Zozula gave a similar speech in November, also in front of city hall, when the city recognized the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor.

“I think the title of her speech should be something along the lines of ‘Silencing the voices,’” Malysh said as she introduced Zozula.

Zozula referred to the period her parents lived in as “the darkest chapter” of Ukraine’s history, and urged listeners to consider “what nobody wants to say out loud,” that history is repeating itself, and “we must do everything humanly possible to stop Putin and other tyrannical leaders from locking people behind a new Iron Curtain.”

She concluded with a warning: “Do you really think they’ll stop with Ukraine?”

The event concluded with a moment of silence, the playing of the Ukrainian national anthem and a traditional Ukrainian song called Memory Eternal, and the sharing of a loaf of bread according to Ukrainian tradition.

READ MORE: More than 220K Ukrainians in Canada ponder their future as war about to turn 2

READ MORE: Vernon vigil marks 90th anniversary of ‘genocidal’ Holodomor

Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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