Hope a theme as Londoners gather to mark one year of war in Ukraine

Dozens of Londoners and Ukrainians gathered on Feb. 24, 2023 at London City Hall for a candle-lit vigil marking one year since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Many civic and neighbouring buildings were lit with Ukrainian colours to mark the occasion. Marshall Healey/980 CFPL

As the world marked one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Friday, Londoners gathered to commemorate the sombre anniversary in a show of support for people affected by the war.

A candlelit vigil was held at city hall Friday evening, with speakers remarking on the tragedy many are dealing with. Following the vigil, many leaders in the political and Ukrainian spheres made their way to the Jet Aircraft Museum to witness the unveiling of a new Ukrainian-themed artifact.

At city hall, many Londoners and Ukrainians braved the cold temperatures and chilly wind to show solidarity with the eastern European nation under attack since Feb. 24, 2022.

Ola Nowosad, a retired teacher and one of the organizers of the vigil with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), remarked to those in attendance that while the lives lost will never be forgotten, it is vital to recognize the work ongoing by those fighting for Ukraine.

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“Today, we gather to acknowledge 365 days of resistance,” said Nowosad.

The vigil was one of over 40 held across Canada on Friday as the start of the war was marked.

Yellow and blue electric candles were displayed during a vigil on Feb. 24, 2023 to mark one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. Marshall Healey/980 CFPL

Along with Nowosad, other speakers included Mayor Josh Morgan, Ukrainian Marta Kosar and president of the local UCC Daria Hryckiw.

Speaking first, Kosar, who came to London last April to escape the war in her home country, read from a prayer written by a local reverend. During her remarks, Kosar spoke of how valuable a collective show of support is for people still in Ukraine and how the acceptance of people fleeing the war is appreciated.

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Frequent throughout the vigil were the calls of “Slava Ukraini,” meaning glory to Ukraine. Signs brought to the vigil also marked the rallying call, along with other messages of support to Ukrainians and anti-Russian sentiments as well.

“We gather to acknowledge the courage, the strength and the faith of Ukrainian people to resist this unprovoked, unjustified invasion,” said Nowosad.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada would send four more tanks to Ukraine, along with $32 million in aid. Trudeau also announced new sanctions had been levied on 129 people and 63 entities.

At the Jet Aircraft Museum, a recently-acquired nose section of a MiG-29 fighter jet was unveiled for invited guests before an open house on Saturday.

A restored MiG-29 with the colours of the Ukrainian Air Force Demonstration Team when they visited Canada in 1992 is on display at the Jet Aircraft Museum in London. Marshall Healey/980 CFPL

The artifact, acquired from CFB Bagotville in Quebec, has been restored in the colours of the Ukrainian Air Force Demonstration Team, which visited Canada in 1992 and flew at the London Airshow, among other locations.

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The nose jet has been an object of fascination for the museum for around six years, said officials.

Mike Kestle, a volunteer with the museum that helped restore the nose jet, said the community played a significant role in getting the jet — built in the late 1980s — back up to presentable conditions.

Many of the speakers at the event commented on the symbolism of the paint job the jet now bears. When the Ukrainian Air Force Demonstration Team visited Canada in 1992, it was not only the first time MiG-29s had been flown in North America but also a demonstration to the world that Ukraine was a free country following the breakup of the U.S.S.R.

Volodymyr Vorobets, president of the London Ukrainian Centre, said seeing the Ukrainian colours on the nose jet with the red and white maple leaf flag as a backdrop was a “beautiful” sight.

While Vorobets acknowledged the pain Ukrainians have and continue to suffer through, he offered an optimistic tone for the future of Ukraine.

“Light always wins over darkness,” said Vorobets. “If there is even just a little bit of light in the darkness, there is hope.

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“There is hope, belief and courage that we will win.”

The museum is hosting a showcase Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to show off the fighter jet, with donations from anyone attending being given to the Ukrainian Congress to help purchase power generators for people in Ukraine.

The museum, which plans to showcase the MiG-29 permanently, says 50 per cent of the donation entry fee for the next month will be donated to the generator cause.

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