As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its second week, hundreds took to the steps of Calgary city hall to show support for besieged country.
The event was held by the local branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) to show solidarity and unite the local Ukrainian community.
“Despite what we feel here, we need to stay strong together for people in Ukraine because the horror they are going through is unimaginable,” said UCC Calgary branch president Inna Platonova. “We need to stay strong for people in Ukraine and do our best as a community here to help them.”
According to Platonova, there are more than 90,000 people in Calgary who are of Ukrainian heritage.
Platonova urged Calgarians to donate to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation’s humanitarian program, which is raising money to help deliver food packages, medicine and shelter for people on the ground in Ukraine.
She said the UCC is also creating a list of people willing to open their homes for the potential influx of refugees fleeing the violence.
Stephania Romaniuk sang both the Canadian and Ukrainian national anthems at Sunday’s rally and said the continuously developing situation has taken an immense toll on many in the community here.
“You have to take a step back because you become overwhelmed, and I think that’s what many in our community are feeling,” Romaniuk told reporters. “The comfort that we provide one another and that I’ve also seen from my non-Ukrainian Canadian friends… that also helps us make it through the days and especially the nights.”
Read more: How Albertans can help support Ukraine
Speakers at Sunday’s rally included Calgary-Shepard MP Tom Kmiec, as well as Calgary-Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner.
“Ukraine is the front line of democracy, of the freedom of the western world, and Canada must do everything that we can to help hold and push back this Russian invasion,” Rempel Garner said.
Calgary’s mayor Jyoti Gondek also spoke and was joined on stage by members of city council.
“As the Ukrainian community in Calgary speaks out, we stand with you in solidarity,” Gondek told the crowd. “Our world is fragile and we must continue to stand together to fight injustices; we cannot sit quietly by in the face of incivility, no matter where these actions are happening.”
As for future rallies, Platonova said the local branch of the UCC needs to “regroup” due to an “incredible avalanche of support” from the community that needs to be directed to help in Ukraine.
“But I cannot say it’s the last rally,” Platonova said.
Meanwhile, Sunday saw lengthy lines outside Village Ice Cream locations across the city.
The popular Calgary-based company announced it would donate 100 per cent of its sales on Sunday toward humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
Village Ice Cream is owned by Billy Friley and his wife Tetiana, who immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine in 2013.
Tetiana said her parents and siblings still live in Ukraine and, in a video posted to social media, said her brother is fighting in the war for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
She said she had trouble getting into Village’s five ice cream shops on Sunday due to the overwhelming support from Calgarians.
“So many of our customers came to support us. I think they feel part of something big, and amazing and nice,” Tetiana told Global News. “I don’t have words to explain it.”