Ukrainian Canadians are expressing fear for their loved ones after Russia invaded their homeland.
Sam Martens, a Ukrainian citizen who has lived in Canada for two years, was in the crowd at a rally held in Vancouver on Thursday in support of peace in Ukraine. Martens told CTV News Vancouver that all of his relatives are still in Ukraine.
“I texted them this morning and they’re reporting bombings and they’re trying to get out of danger, you know,” Martens said. “I came here (to the protest) to show the world that I am here, that I care.”
Ruslan Zeleniuk, who runs a Ukrainian import-export store in Winnipeg, said his mother who lives in western Ukraine woke up to find the country under attack.
Zeleniuk said: “They heard some explosions during the night. “They are in a state of disbelief and shock.”
Canada has the third largest Ukrainian population in the world, after Russia and Ukraine itself, with more than 1.3 million Canadians being part of the Ukrainian diaspora.
At the beginning of World War I, more than 150,000 displaced Ukrainians immigrated to Canada, attracted by the promise of cheap land in the Prairies.
“They are looking for a better life,” Yulia Zmerzla, executive director of the Ukrainian Center for Culture and Education in Winnipeg, told CTV National News. “Sadly, it’s been more than a century since that time and now history repeats itself.”
Despite the danger, Zmerzla said her family still living in Ukraine wanted to stay and protect their country.
“I want my family to come here,” Zmerzla said. “I want to protect them.”
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has taken steps to expedite the process for Ukrainian Canadians to bring their families to Canada immediately, including priority process applications to adopt children. adoptions, as well as applications for permanent and temporary residency for primary holders in Ukraine who want to reunite with family in Canada or study, work, or start a new life in Canada.
While some Ukrainian Canadians worry for their loved ones still living in Ukraine amid the escalating violence, others are also worried about the fate of their ancestral country, where they lived. speaking is a big part of their identity.
“My feeling of being Ukrainian and closer to my people has increased this year since the conflict,” said Anastasia Reznichenko, a Ukrainian-Canadian living in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. over the past nine years, told CTV National News.
With files by CTV Alissa Thibault, Josh Crabb and Nicole Lampa