Durham-area adults and kids were out Thursday evening waving Ukrainian flags and standing in solidarity with their loved ones in Ukraine.
“We are here to have our peaceful rally against Russian aggression on Ukraine,” said Kateryna Rohowska, the head of the organization that led the rally, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Durham.
Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized what’s been described as a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, despite widespread condemnation from world leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Protesters worry things will continue to escalate.
“Please defend us, help us to not spread the war to other countries. We need to stop it now,” Rohowska urged.
Durham’s Ukrainian community has a long history — with churches established in the early 1900s, and a population of 17,000 whose ethnic origins trace back to the county, according to a 2010 census.
“We, like many of our people, have family in Ukraine. My wife’s cousin and her niece are hunkered down in a home in the city of Chernihiv, listening to missiles and bombs go off over and around them. It’s unbelievable, nobody can believe this is happening,” said Father Bohdan Hladio of St. John The Baptist Church in Oshawa.
When asked if the sanctions put in place by Canada on Russia were enough, Hladio said it’s complicated.
“When on a state level people are engaging in terrorism, what is enough? You don’t want to respond with evil for evil, but by the same token, the parallels between Hitler in 1938 and Putin 2022 are just too obvious to ignore,” he said.
The father added that Canadians can pray for those in Ukraine.
Durham’s regional chair says he supports the Ukrainian community and condemns the acts of war led by Russia’s president.
“We stand with our Ukrainian community. What’s coming from our prime minister is coming from the rest of the country. What’s going on in the Ukraine right now is absolutely unacceptable,” says John Henry.
Protesters hope the war ends immediately — but are prepared to keep rallying until Russian forces leave Ukraine.
They also are inviting those looking to help to donate to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation.