Stanislav Serebriakov, a Ukrainian man who attended the rally in Halifax, said Nova Scotia’s Ukrainian community isn’t huge, but many came out on Thursday afternoon to show their support for their home country.
“Everybody’s feeling (anxious) and scared about what’s happening in their home country, what happened to their friends and families,” he said.
So far at least 40 people in Ukraine have been killed and dozens were wounded by Russian shelling, according to an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office.
While Canada has announced sanctions against Russia in response to the attack, Serebriakov believes they may not be “enough to stop the war and to stop Putin’s invasion in Ukraine.”
He called on governments in European countries and the western world to be more decisive about their next steps.
“If we wait for a few more days, it could be too little, too late,” he said.
Iaroslav Verevkim, who is from Russia and is currently studying at Dalhousie University, attended the rally and said he was “absolutely shocked and ashamed what’s going on with my country and my government.”
“Based on my friends and family, know that people in Russia don’t want this war to happen. They also go to protests in Russia, but they are detained,” he said. “I didn’t expect it to reach this point, but here we are and I hope for the best.”
Dali Kapanadze lived in Kyiv during the Revolution of Dignity and is of Ukrainian and Georgian descent. She said she attended the rally in Halifax to tell people to “wake up.”
“We are not only defending our country, our freedom, and our independence, we are fighting for the democracy of the entire world,” she said.
“We need to crush Russian oligarchs that have assets in Europe, that have assets in Canada, that have assets in the United States.
“We need more military support, we need more humanitarian support, and we need to treat this seriously. This is not a crisis, this is a war against Ukrainian people – well-executed and well-planned.”
Kapanadze’s mother and grandmother remain in Ukraine, where they intend to stay. Her father passed away in 2013 but she said “he would have been there” too.
Wednesday night, Andre Mereshuk said he wasn’t able to catch a wink of sleep — worried sick about his friends and family in southeastern Ukraine.
Mereshuk, the president of the Nova Scotia branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, says many of his friends and family sought shelter in subway stations that have become impromptu bomb shelters across the country.
“They kind of know what do to in this situation, they tried to be organized and not panic — but, it’s hard to do,” he said.
During a cabinet meeting Thursday, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston extended his thoughts to the people of Ukraine.
“We’re shocked and horrified by what we’re seeing. The invasion by Russia is completely unfathomable,” he said.
“It’s endangering the lives of the Ukrainian people and flies in the face of international law.”
Houston said there are more than 9,000 people of Ukrainian heritage living in Nova Scotia.
“I know right now they are worried, upset and concerned about their loved ones,” he said.
“I want them to know what we stand with the people of Ukraine, and we support Canada taking additional action to stop Russia’s unwarranted aggression.”