Red Deer’s Ukrainian community is keeping a close eye on the violent protests in Ukraine.
About 30 temporary foreign workers and Ukrainian-Canadians gathered at St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church after the Sunday service to show solidarity and support for the protesters in their home country.
Anton Oleshchynskyi said he is very concerned about the situation in Kyiv because his parents and friends still live in the capital city.
The anti-government protests in Ukraine started after President Viktor Yanukovych backed away from a deal with the European Union to strengthen ties in favour of a bailout loan from Russia in November.
Four people have died as the peaceful demonstrations turned increasingly violent over the last three months. Oleshchynskyi came to Red Deer in October to work at Olymel.
“We talk to all our families,” said Oleshchynskyi, who is one of about 100 new Ukrainian temporary workers at Olymel. “We worry about them. We do everything we can here.”
Oleshchynskyi said he is upset about the media reports that suggest the Ukrainians are terrorists because he knows this is not true. He said Ukrainians are tired of fighting for democracy but he is optimistic that help is on the way.
“People in Europe and people in United States and Canada are not blind,” said Oleshchynskyi. “And I think something will change.”
Ivan Panchyshyn, 15, moved to Red Deer three years ago from Ukraine with his parents. His family still has many relatives living in the eastern European country.
“I think it’s really bad,” said Panchyshyn.
“People have been waiting since the Soviet Union broke up for the good life. But nothing happened so now they do not want to wait anymore. Everyone deserves a good life.”
Worried about his wife’s safety, Andrii did not want to give his last name because she works in the military in western Ukraine.
“We don’t know what to do,” said Andrii, who also arrived in October.
“There’s sorrow because we are here. Thank you to the Ukrainian church for giving us the opportunity. We are not long here in Canada. Hopefully we can give a little drop to the movement in Kyiv … We care about all these people.”
Event organizer Oksana McIntyre said the situation in Ukraine is a struggle to gain true democracy. McIntyre, who was born in Canada but is of Ukrainian ancestry, said the protests began as peaceful demonstrations but the government reacted very violently.
“It’s the freedoms that we have in Canada,” she said. “That’s all the people there want. Ukraine may be classified as a democracy but the government is extremely corrupt.”
The community was also encouraging people to call on the Canadian government to “take decisive action including visa revocation and individual sanctions against those responsible for human rights abuse, corruption and illegal business practices in Ukraine.”
To donate or for more information, contact McIntyre at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact St. Vladmir Ukrainian Catholic Church at 403-342-4920.
The donations are being sent to Ukraine for the injured protesters through the Canada Ukraine Foundation (www.cufoundation.ca).