Alex Ivanenko recently found himself trying to explain to his son why Ukrainians are so alarmed by Russian president Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
“Try explaining to an eight-year-old how a dictatorship works,” said Ivanenko, who came to Canada from Ukraine with his parents and older sister in 1994. His father helped establish Red Deer’s St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church and he and his son now run IP Fabrications.
Ivanenko, 37, who is the father of three young sons, still has many relatives and childhood friends in that country.
He worries for two friends with whom he grew up with and are now, like him, men in their 30s with wives and children.
“They are the ones who are going to have to go and fight,” he said.
Family members have already been victims of the conflict between Russia-backed rebels and Ukraine forces that has been going on since 2014 and already cost 14,000 lives.
One froze his hands badly on the front and another returned a different person after fighting for three years on the front.
For Ukrainians living in Canada, seeing what is going on is stressful.
“Talking to the people who are here, the war is probably even worse than being in the Ukraine because you feel helpless.”
Besides his immediate family and an uncle in Peace River, almost all of Ivanenko’s relatives still live in Ukraine.
The first thing he does when he wakes up is to see what has happened overnight in the region.
As the crisis in Ukraine deepened on Wednesday, Ivanenko warned that what happens there will affect Canadians and other countries around the world.
“Those decisions being made in that part of the world will change how we live here, whether economically, whether it’s our relationship with other countries. It’s big.
“This is kind of going back to the Cold War. If you don’t stop it the big red dog is going to be in your yard.”
Ivanenko has no doubt that Putin’s ultimate goal is to restore a version of the former USSR.
Only if other Western nations unite, as they did in the Second World War, will Putin be stopped, he said.
“Enough with diplomacy. Diplomacy has not gotten us anywhere.”
Ivanenko does not want to see any more bloodshed.
But he hopes that democratic nations unite and hit back at Russia’s leaders by disrupting their finances, travel and supplies.
“It’s like Biden said, peace has a price. Freedom has a price and are we willing to pay it?”
In Red Deer on Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney said he was deeply concerned about Russia’s moves in Ukraine, saying, “we have not seen aggression in Europe like this since the 1940s. It is destabilizing to global peace and security.”
Kenney has been communicating with Ed Stelmach and other Ukrainian Canadians. Alberta will be sending some financial support from provincial taxpayers to support civil society in the Ukraine.
The premier said he hopes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will speak to U.S. President Joe Biden about the ramifications of his decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada.
That decision has made the U.S. reliant on Russian oil, said Kenney. Not only does this now create energy insecurity, with the U.S. sanctions against Russia, but it has also in recent years been putting billions of U.S. dollars into the hands of Putin and his war machine, “and that is unacceptable.”
Russia is the largest supplier of oil to the world economy while Alberta is the fourth largest supplier, says Kenney, who believes Biden should be told that this province is ready to replace Russia as a major supplier of oil imports into the U.S.
— With files from Lana Michelin