Ukrainian-Windsorites worry for relatives back home amid tension with Russia

·3 min read
Members of Saints Vladimir and Olga Ukrainian Catholic Church joined a social media demonstration on the weekend, called
Members of Saints Vladimir and Olga Ukrainian Catholic Church joined a social media demonstration on the weekend, called

With tensions high between Russia and Ukraine, people of Ukrainian heritage in Windsor are watching with concern.

Father Tom Hrywna, from the parish priest at Saints Vladimir and Olga Ukrainian Catholic Church, said while many at his parish are fourth generation there are still many people in Windsor with ties back to their country.

"I was speaking to one [woman] on Friday who broke down a little bit, because her brother ... if this war that's going on escalates he will probably be going to the front lines," said Hrywna.

"The threat of an invasion from your neighbour is always there. I don't think any of us would imagine the constant threat of someone like the United States having 100,000 troops assembled on the border, ready to invade at any time, and it's unimaginable for many of us."

Tensions soared Monday between Russia and the West, with NATO outlining a series of potential troop and ship deployments and Ireland warning that upcoming Russian war games off its coast would not be welcome while concerns abound that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine.

The Western alliance's statement summed up moves already announced by individual member countries — including Canada.

Russia has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine's border and is demanding that NATO promise it will never allow Ukraine to join and that other actions, such as stationing alliance troops in former Soviet bloc countries, be curtailed. Some of these, like any pledge to permanently bar Ukraine, are non-starters for NATO — creating a seemingly intractable standoff that many fear can only end in war.

Russia denies it is planning an invasion, and has said the Western accusations are merely a cover for NATO's own planned provocations.

Hrywna and some of his parishioners joined a social media demonstration over the weekend called "Stand With Ukraine."

"Prayer is our most powerful weapon in the place where we find ourselves right now in Canada, but the other thing: be informed," said Hrywna. "We need to fight the falsehood that comes from Russian disinformation, not look away from this. I know it's very far away, but we need to fight for justice, no matter where it is."

LISTEN | Hear more from Father Hrywna:

Hrywna said many are sending money back to family members in Ukraine who are preparing themselves in case they must go to war.

"None of us want to see war occur in this world," he said. "The difficult thing with what's going on between Ukraine and Russia right now is it's a battle of two different ways of what life and democracy should look like."

Leisha Nazarewich, president of the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress Windsor Branch, told CBC News she's also having many difficult conversations with people in the local Ukrainian community.

She said she heard from one family who is worried after they tried unsuccessfully to reach loved ones and then had a person pick up who was speaking Russian.

Aastha Shetty/CBC
Aastha Shetty/CBC

"Uncertainty is the big sense that all of us are experiencing and those of us who have family in Ukraine ... are feeling very worried for the safety and security of all people right at the moment," she said.

"They have a fear about where this might end up — nobody, absolutely nobody wants a war."

To support the local Ukrainian community, Nazarewich said people can voice their concerns to local members of parliament.

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