The mother of a seven-year-old Ukrainian refugee who was killed in a brazen hit and run in Montreal says her young daughter already loved her new home.
Galyna Legenkovska spoke for the first time publicly Tuesday, telling those who gathered at the memorial that the family was touched by the outpouring of support.
Donning a red coat and white head scarf, she spoke softly in a mix of Ukrainian and French at the Saint Sophie Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral.
“Everyone is suffering a lot but starting to accept the fact she will not come back,” Legenkovska said through a translator.
Mariia Legenkovska was fatally struck by the driver of a vehicle when she was walking to school with her siblings on the morning of Dec. 13, in a school zone just east of downtown Montreal.
The driver fled the scene of the crash only to turn himself in to police later in the day. Juan Manuel Becerra Garcia, 45, has since been charged with with failing to stop after an accident resulting in death.
Mariia’s story and death have sent shockwaves through the city, prompting calls and demonstrations for safer streets. The young child had arrived with her mom and siblings in Canada about two months ago after fleeing their war-torn country of Ukraine.
The family wasn’t able to settle in Montreal together. Mariia’s father had remained in Ukraine to fight against the Russian invasion, but he was granted special leave from the Territorial Defense Forces to attend his daughter’s memorial and funeral.
Legenkovska described her daughter as a “happy child” who had come to make Montreal her new home. She was going through her phone when she stumbled upon a moment involving Mariia.
“One of the last pictures was a selfie of Mariia where she said ‘I love Montreal and I’m here now,'” she told reporters.
Mariia’s funeral service was held at the same church in the city’s Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie borough Wednesday morning.
Rev. Volodymyr Kouchnir, the head priest at the church, says the Alfred Dallaire funeral complex offered to cover the costs of the services and the Mount Royal Cemetery offered to pay for the girl’s burial plot.
— with files from Global News’ Phil Carpenter and The Canadian Press