Thousands attend rally on Douglas St. in support of Ukraine


A sea of thousands in blue and yellow gathered on Douglas St. to stand united with Ukraine.

“To see the support is absolutely fantastic,” said Todd Rayner, a supporter with family living in Ukraine. “I think it’s made a big difference.”

Rayner was one of many in the crowd wearing blue and yellow while waiving a large Ukrainian flag as cars honked in support of the Ukrainian cause.

Victoria Grando helped organize the rally despite many sleepless nights thinking of her close family still living in Kyiv.

“It’s Surreal,” said Grando, office manager for Victoria’s Ukrainian Cultural Centre. “Like from a bad, bad Hollywood disaster movie.”

While many in the crowd hope and pray for their relatives overseas, one family is now reunited. Iryna Kaplun’s parents were able to flee Western Ukraine and arrive in Victoria on Thursday.

“It’s an awful mix of happiness to be here safe, and guilt, and pain, killing pain about the people in Ukraine,” said Kaplun.

With emotions still raw from leaving their home country, Kaplun’s parents Nadia and Roman find a glimmer of joy in getting to see their grandchildren once again.

“It’s a huge relief,” said Iryna, translating for her mother. “I’m very glad to be here with the kids but I’m so devastated and in so much pain for the people that are still there.”

Although concern and anxiety are top of mind, people like Susan Nelson have helped fuel the Ukrainian-Canadian community’s faith in better days ahead. Nelson has personally raised nearly $1,000 in donations by selling her Ukrainian-themed rock art.

“Motivating me is the need to do something,” said Nelson, who’s raising funds for the Ukrainian Cultural Centre. “I’m horrified and greatly affected by the images and things that I’m seeing.”

Organizers say many others have stepped up with donations of funds and supplies, as well as offering their homes and even legal work to help bring Ukrainian refugees to Canada.

Grando says the community’s generosity and show of solidarity are providing a source of strength in keeping their hope alive.

“It’s more important for people in Ukraine, knowing that the whole world is behind them.”

Grando encourages people to donate to the Red Cross or Canada Ukraine Foundation.

Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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