For the third weekend in a row, demonstrators gathered outside the B.C. Legislature on Sunday afternoon to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
Hundreds attended, standing shoulder to shoulder, with many having tied the Ukrainian flag around their shoulders with pride.
“It’s wonderful to see non-Ukrainians coming out, Ukrainians coming out. We just feel that we’re not alone,” said Nadine Swidinsky, a local resident who has family in Ukraine.
She said she worries for them as they’ve opted to stay in the country and fight as well as help the refugees.
“I’m waiting for a ceasefire. I’m waiting for Putin just to stop and for the Russian troops to pull out. I know that’s wishful thinking, but it’s such a devastating, devastating war,” she said.
Swidinsky is not the only one who fears for family and the people back home.
Fellow Ukrainian-Canadian Luba Reshitnyk said her relatives in the country are scared about what might happen to them.
“It’s an overwhelming feeling of dread most days,” she said.
“But also mixed in with feelings of hope, feelings of support that Ukraine is experiencing, but the thread of escalating violence and war is the reality of what is happening in Ukraine right now,” she continued.
Erik Olekciyovych, who moved to Canada from Ukraine five years ago, urges people to stand with the people of the country.
“They bombed my aunt’s old house. It’s destroyed. It’s reduced to shambles right now. They also bombed in a place near my school, where my school was … it’s pretty tough.” he said.
“I just hope my aunt doesn’t die and that my cousins are doing fine,” he added.
He said he’s also thinking about the marginalized civilians of the country that have been reported being subjected to racial discrimination when trying to flee Ukraine, as well as the many other civilians in the middle of other ongoing conflicts that have not received the same kind of attention.
“Everybody deserves safe passage. Everybody deserves to be seen as a human being,” said Olekciyovych.
Many attendees say attending rallies helps them feel supported and connected with the local community, giving them a sense of hope and warmth amid a chaotic time.
Soon after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Victoria resident Aaron Pufal decided to pack his bags and travel to Poland to offer assistance at the border.
“This is crazy. We’re here living our ridiculous lives, and there’s this humanitarian crisis going on. And I just decided that I should do something,” he said.
He’s heading back home now having run out of money as his trip was self-funded, but he’s now calling on the public to help if they can.
“They need people to step up, and it’s tough and it’s expensive, I get it. But they need body armour, they need medical supplies and they need people to train them how to do it,” Pufal said.
The UN has recorded at least 596 civilian deaths, though it believes the true toll is much higher, and Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office said that at least 85 children are among them.