Ukrainian family who moved to Sask. amidst fears of Russian invasion worry for friends, family

·2 min read
Petro Skirchuk says he moved to Canada with his wife, Iryna Skirchuk, and their seven-year-old daughter, Zlata Skirchuk, after thousands of Russian troops gathered on the border with Ukraine.  (Submitted by Petro Skirchuk - image credit)
Petro Skirchuk says he moved to Canada with his wife, Iryna Skirchuk, and their seven-year-old daughter, Zlata Skirchuk, after thousands of Russian troops gathered on the border with Ukraine. (Submitted by Petro Skirchuk - image credit)

Petro Skirchuk and his family moved to Saskatoon from Ukraine about eight months ago, largely because of the growing fear of a Russian invasion.

Now Skirchuk still looks back home, to Ukraine, and hopes that his family and friends — some of whom live near the eastern border shared with Russia — won't be caught in a military push from their neighbours.

For some of his friends back in Ukraine, "they're ready to move — someone is ready to fight, someone is ready to change the country … it's different for [everyone]," he told Leisha Grebinksi, host of Saskatoon Morning.

The threat of military action has hovered over the country and its citizens since tens of thousands of Russian troops were posted on the two countries' shared border, drawing the attention of Western leaders and NATO allies who don't trust Russia's military presence.

In November, Russia accused the West of "artificially" creating tension.

Tensions about lingering threat

Skirchuk said it's commonly believed among Ukrainians that Russia could invade. He says while he was at first fearful of an invasion, over time it became another part of reality.

"All Ukrainians started to understand that we will never have peace with that country," he said.

That understanding was enforced by Russia's recent military moves, he says.

In 2014, Russian troops took over and annexed the Crimean peninsula, which Ukraine considered an illegal act. Russia has also backed separatists in eastern Ukraine who have contended with the country's military for the past seven years.

Most recently, Russia has demanded NATO deny membership to Ukraine, among other calls to the alliance.

Skirchuk said he moved to Canada with security and equal values in mind.

"We left our home in Ukraine but we wanted to move to [a] secure country, some other country with the same values that my family had ... equality, justice, peace. Those values are fundamental for us," he said.

Like other citizens and leaders with a wary eye fixed on Russia, Skirchuk isn't sure what to expect. He says it's "difficult to understand what one dictator and his political elite have in mind."

He's also not certain how Ukraine would manage against Russia's military force, and believes it would be impossible to withstand without support from Western allies.

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