Svitlana Polishchuk says she hasn’t been able to sleep, think or eat since Russia invaded her home country of Ukraine.
The 36-year-old central Alberta woman has family living in her hometown of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia earlier this week.
“Three feet from my house, a bomb blew up. How can you feel? My mom’s heart is hurting. It’s so bad. My family is texting and calling to say goodbye every minute,” Polishchuk said Friday, through a friend’s translation.
“I don’t want to answer the phone because I don’t want to say goodbye. But at the same time I don’t want to ignore them because it could be the last call. I don’t want to think like that.”
Polishchuk and several other central Albertans will attend a rally in support of Ukraine at the intersection of Gaetz Avenue and 19 Street in Red Deer Saturday at 4 p.m.
Iness Kojlo, rally organizer, said she’s been in shock watching the situation in Ukraine unfold.
“I have no words for what (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is doing. I just feel pain. Pain for the people dying and nobody helping them,” the central Alberta resident said.
“We want to protest against the war. What’s happening in Ukraine right now is unacceptable. It’s sad, chilling, scary. There are mixed feelings. There’s anger as well.”
A few dozen central Albertans rallied at the same location on Thursday. The Saturday rally will provide another opportunity for people to show their support for Ukraine.
Kojlo didn’t grow up in Ukraine, but her husband did – she has family and friends living there as well.
“Ukraine is a very small country compared to Russia. By themselves they aren’t able to stand up to what’s happening. (Putin) has taken lots of land already,” she said.
“Ukraine doesn’t have a huge army. This country was not prepared for a war. They’re suffering so much already. With COVID, they’re already suffering and now he decides he wants to attack them?”
Kojlo said she wants to see everyone who supports Ukraine at this weekend’s rally.
“I hope people see that Ukrainian people do not want to have a war and they didn’t start the war. They want to live in peace. People here are afraid for their families there,” she said.
Kojlo said she believes Putin wants to reform the USSR and won’t stop with a Ukrainian invasion.
“Normal human beings with a clear brain are never going to attack children and women. They’re never going to start shooting at five o’clock in the morning when children are sleeping with no warning,” she said.
“Can’t somebody help them now? People are dying today. Can’t you somehow stop (Putin)? Is there any way to stop him? Why is he feeling can take control of the world? Why does he feel like he can do whatever he wants to do?”
In addition to Saturday’s event, St. Vladimir Ukrainian Church will host a rally at Red Deer City Hall Sunday at noon.
City Hall will be lit in blue and yellow in solidarity with Ukraine.
Mayor Ken Johnston said the news of the invasion and conflict has “no doubt struck all Red Deerians to the core.”
“Our collective hearts are with the Ukrainian people. There are no right words to say, but we see you and we send so much love and prayers to the people fearing and fighting for their lives,” Johnston said, adding he will attend Sunday’s rally.
“Alberta and Red Deer is home to many people with connections to the eastern European country. Ukrainians have helped build the fabric of Alberta over the past century. The people of Ukraine are fighting in defence of Canadian values and, as Red Deerians, we must continue to support them to the best of our abilities.”
Johnston said there are reputable places to provide monetary support if they have the means, including the Canadian Red Cross, Hungry for Life or Charitable Foundation Voices of Children.