Ukrainian newcomers to N.L. host rally in support of home country as winter approaches

Katarina Gavrilyuk (centre) holds her son while posing with attendees of the rally she organized to support those left in Ukraine since Russia's invasion earlier this year. (Nick Ward/CBC - image credit)
Katarina Gavrilyuk (centre) holds her son while posing with attendees of the rally she organized to support those left in Ukraine since Russia's invasion earlier this year. (Nick Ward/CBC - image credit)
Nick Ward/CBC
Nick Ward/CBC

Dozens of people from the Ukrainian community in Newfoundland and Labrador came together on Saturday in St. John's to hold a rally in support of those still in the war-torn country.

The event was organized by Katarina Gavrilyuk, who fled Ukraine when Russia first invaded the country. Four months ago, she, her husband and young son settled in St. John's.

Now nearly a year since the invasion, Gavrilyuk says more needs to be done to help those who are unable to escape.

"Everybody is saying it's like a year, but for us it's like an eternity, really," she said.

"We need to support Ukraine because people who live there, for now it's winter. It's cold there and they [are] still in a horrible situation and we need to talk about that every time we can."

Many of Gavrilyuk's family and friends are still in the country. She said they are left without electricity, heat and water for hours or days at a time, as winter approaches and Russia continues to bomb the region.

"Every morning, I wake up and look at the news," said Gavrilyuk.

"Then, I call my friends and ask 'Are you alive?' It's awful because if they don't answer, you start to panic and think 'Oh my gosh, something has happened.'"

Gavrilyuk said she and other Ukrainian newcomers to the province organized the rally to highlight the need for support from the Canadian government.

"I'm just a Ukrainian girl who wants to help her country," she said.

"We arranged this meeting to show people that Ukraine needs our support. We need to close the sky [over] Ukraine and we need to give more weapons to Ukraine."

Many attendees waved flags or hoisted homemade signs in a show of solidarity with Ukraine.

Nick Ward/CBC
Nick Ward/CBC

Gavrilyuk, who has moved 16 times since the invasion began, said the invasion can only be stopped if other countries supply weapons to those still in Ukraine.

"Russia can stop the war in one day," said Gavrilyuk. "But, they don't want to. They continue to kill us just because we are Ukrainians. Just because we speak our language, and just because we like our culture. We need more weapons to protect ourselves. We want to protect our cities, our country."

Nick Ward/CBC
Nick Ward/CBC

As for the response from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Gavrilyuk said the Ukrainian community is grateful for their generosity.

"Thank you," said Gavrilyuk.

"You're doing, I think, more than you can, but you still continue doing that. We politely ask you to talk to your government and ask them [to do] more for Ukraine."

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