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‘Powerful in people’s hearts’: Ukrainian flags flying off the shelves at Victoria shop

Click to play video: 'High demand for Ukrainian flags in B.C.'
High demand for Ukrainian flags in B.C.
Not long ago, few British Columbians could have identified a Ukrainian flag. Now, as Kylie Stanton reports, it's one of the big sellers at flag shops across the province. – Mar 2, 2022

From the moment Russian troops crossed into Ukraine, staff at The Flag Shop Victoria have been working “non-stop” in a sea of yellow and blue fabric.

Demand for Ukrainian flags has the Fort Street store’s phone ringing off the hook and there’s a backlog of at least 180 orders, according to owner Paul Servos.

“People attach themselves to the symbols and the Ukrainian flag is a wonderful symbol,” he told Global News.

“It’s the sky over the wheat fields and sunflower fields of Ukraine. It’s a really simple, symbolic flag but it’s so powerful in people’s hearts. It means everything about home.”

Read more: Grassroots group in B.C. scrambles for funds, supplies to welcome Ukrainian refugees

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an unprovoked and violent attack on Ukraine last week, prompting thousands of civilians to take up arms to defend their country’s independence. Some 677,000 Ukrainians have also attempted to flee, as Russian troops carry out continued air strikes on cities.

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In Victoria, thousands of residents took the streets on Sunday in solidarity with the Eastern European nation. They sang the Canadian and Ukrainian national anthems and waved signs reading Stop the Russian aggression, No war, glory to Ukraine, and Freedom for Ukraine.

“We’ve had experiences where total strangers met in the store and were hugging, they were so emotional telling stories from home,” said Servos.

“We’re taking backorders for those that want to get them but it’s going to be a week at least. We’re making them as fast as we can but it’s a small shop.”

He said there’s a backlog of at least 180 orders.

Click to play video: 'Canada provides humanitarian support to Ukraine as it looks to join EU'
Canada provides humanitarian support to Ukraine as it looks to join EU

Maggie Rennick, Servos’ wife, has Ukrainian family on her father’s side.

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She said she doesn’t normally work in the shop, but was called in to help given the overwhelming demand for flags.

“I was shocked to begin with and then I was very saddened and angry,” she said of watching the crisis unfold in the country of her grandparents’ birth.

Read more: ‘When I am called to serve my country, I will’: Ukrainian in B.C. returns home to fight

Rennick said the shop is donating a portion of all sales to the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Victoria.

While its staff have their hands full at the moment, she added the public is welcome to come and pick up any of the yellow and blue scrap material for free.

“They can make themselves a little flag if they want or make themselves a ribbon.”

Servos said the shop is prioritizing its orders — getting flags to “prominent” places, including city halls, police stations, municipalities and fire halls. But, if those groups want additional flags, he said they’ll have to wait until other customer orders are filled.

Click to play video: 'U.N. General Assembly holds emergency session on Ukraine'
U.N. General Assembly holds emergency session on Ukraine

The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to reprimand Russia over its invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday, and demanded that Moscow stop fighting and withdraw its military forces.

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Canada, meanwhile, has promised additional economic sanctions are in the works for Russia and confirmed plans to ban Russian-owned or registered ships and fishing vessels from entering Canadian ports and waters.

Ottawa has also promised an additional $100 million in humanitarian relief for Ukraine.

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