Spotlight on Ukrainian women this Mother's Day, as joyous day is marred by war

·2 min read
Olena Puhachova, left, stands with her two sons, Yehor Puhachov, centre, and Ivan Puhachov. She fled Ukraine and arrived with Yehor and his sister two weeks ago.  (Chloe Ranaldi/ CBC  - image credit)
Olena Puhachova, left, stands with her two sons, Yehor Puhachov, centre, and Ivan Puhachov. She fled Ukraine and arrived with Yehor and his sister two weeks ago. (Chloe Ranaldi/ CBC - image credit)

It's Mother's Day, but for many Ukrainian families, what was once a joyous occasion has become a difficult reminder of the sacrifices many women and mothers have had to make these past few of months during the war.

As many here in Canada are out celebrating this Mother's Day, Olena Puhachova and her family are working on rebuilding their lives from scratch.

Puhachova moved to Montreal two weeks ago with her 11-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter, joining her eldest son Ivan, who's lived here for the last three years.

At the beginning of the war, she and her two youngest children fled Ukraine to Poland, where she had to make the difficult decision to leave behind her husband of 27 years.

"The journey was extremely hard .... she's never been apart from her husband for this long, " said Ivan Puhachova, who translated for his mother as she spoke with CBC News in an interview.

Despite the hardship, Puhachova is thankful to be in Montreal with her children who bring her hope in these trying times, said Ivan, a PhD student at the Université de Montréal, where he studies computer graphics.

"Since the start of the war, we have been working on bringing my family here," he said.

Reflecting on the sacrifices women have had to make throughout the conflict, Ivan said he's proud to be the son of a strong Ukrainian woman.

"Most Ukrainian women became leaders in their families. I know tons of stories about women driving their cars even without a proper license under these difficult circumstances and driving kids toward safe places, taking risks, making decisions," he said.

"They bring hope and peace."

Chloe Ranaldi/ CBC
Chloe Ranaldi/ CBC

To show support for all these women, the Canadian Ukrainian Congress took it upon themselves to organize a candlelit vigil Saturday night at Place d'Armes in the Old Port in honour of Ukrainian mothers — many of whom have had to make the difficult decision to leave loved ones and their home behind.

"We know that over five million people have left the country, for most part mother and children, so they have a big, big burden to care for the kids and to look for shelter and safety in other parts of the world," said Michael Shwec, the president of the Quebec chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Shwec said the event was also for Ukrainains living in Montreal, many of whom have mothers back in the war-torn country.

"We hope that being together, we'll show not just solidarity across the ocean but also that our community can begin to gather together," he said.

For Ivan, he's grateful to be spending this Mother's Day with his mom and celebrating together as they try to build a new life.

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