Joy is gone but hope remains: Canadian ambassador to Ukraine on invasion anniversary

Joy is gone but hope remains: Canadian ambassador to Ukraine on invasion anniversary
AP/Markus Schreiber
A candle is lit inside the wreck of a Russian T-72 tank, destroyed on the approach to Kyiv and was placed in front of the Russian Embassy to mark the first anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.

Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine said she woke up with a sense of apprehension about what the day would bring, as the country marked the start of its second year of war since the Russian invasion.

For most Ukrainians Larisa Galadza has spoken to, the anniversary of the invasion is not a day for reflection, as they’re still living it day to day, she said.

“There is no space for reflection,” Galadza said, sitting in a boardroom in the Canadian Embassy in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv on Friday.

“I find that for myself as well.”

She retreated with her Canadian staff to the western city of Lviv before fleeing the country on Feb. 24, 2022. That was when missile strikes rained down on the country at dawn as Russian tanks invaded from the northern border with Belarus toward the capital city of Kyiv and from the south.

Galadza said she knew even from the first days of the invasion that she would return to Ukraine, but the question was what state the country would be in when she did — and under whose leadership.

Some feared the city would fall to Russian occupation, but Ukrainian flags still fly over Maidan Square in the heart of Kyiv a year later.

Still, streets are quiet in the capital, as residents fear the possibility of Russian missile strikes to mark the anniversary.

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian air force said earlier this week the military expected several waves of Russian attacks to mark the one-year anniversary of the war.

As of midday, the aid raid sirens in Kyiv remained silent.

Galadza said the mood in Kyiv is much more sombre than before the war.

“The joy is gone. The hope is there,” she said. “The determination is there. It’s palpable.”

People are also feeling gratitude, she said. Galadza started the day by attending a ceremony in Sofia Square where Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy paid tribute to servicemen and citizens who supported the war effort. Some of the awards were given posthumously and accepted by the parents of the fallen soldiers, she said.

“That was very meaningful to do that in the middle of Kyiv, the Kyiv that Russia thought they were going to take in a matter of hours,” she said. “It was powerful.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada will stand by Ukraine’s side for as long as it takes to finish the war, but Galadza said the support will likely extend beyond that to include the rebuilding effort as well.

Ukraine liberated five regions last spring, and reconstructing those communities is top of mind for the Ukrainian government, she said.

“That’s how they’re going to bring people back into their homes, bring Ukrainians back to the country, and it’s going to be an international effort,” she said.

“We’re going to do this together.”

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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