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Centennial Square rally to mark second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Saturday’s event, one of many such rallies across Canada, will include a prayer and moment of silence to honour Ukrainians who have died.
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Anastasiia Konstantynova lived in Kyiv, Ukraine, before coming to Canada. COURTESY ANASTASIIA KONSTANTYNOVA

Anastasiia Konstantynova, husband Bohdan and their four-year-old daughter Polly lived only about 500 metres from where bombs were falling in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv before they were able to leave for Europe and then Canada two years ago.

The couple had already experienced Russian aggression in the country’s Donetsk region before moving to Kyiv, “so war started in 2014 for us,” Konstantynova said.

Trained as a physicist, she is currently working for the Help Ukraine Vancouver Island community group, while her husband is a self-employed tile setter.

Instability in Ukraine had prompted them to begin planning to leave even before the Russians invaded, Konstantynova said, and they chose ­Victoria because her husband had found a construction job here.

They had heard Canadians were nice before they got to Victoria, “but we didn’t expect how kind and supportive they are,” she said.

The Konstantynovas are among many Ukrainians in Victoria who will be at a gathering today in Centennial Square to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, on Feb. 24, 2022.

The event, one of many such rallies across Canada, will include a prayer and moment of silence to honour Ukrainians who have died, said Lesia Kuzuk, a local member of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

“It’s going to be a peaceful rally,” she said. “It’s to condemn the illegal actions of Russia.”

The Victoria event runs from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., and will include speeches from Ukrainian newcomers to Canada and a performance by the Kalyna Ukrainian Choir, which will sing the anthems of Ukraine and Canada, Kuzuk said.

Other speakers will include retired Langford fire chief Bob Beckett, who has led three humanitarian missions to Ukraine since June 2022, bringing medical and educational supplies, fire-rescue equipment and more. He recently helped launch a fundraising effort to purchase equipment for a breast-milk bank at a children’s hospital in Ukraine. So far, $4,000 has been raised toward the $50,000 goal.

“It’s critical — we need to get that established,” Beckett said. “It’s badly needed given the number of premature births they’re having.”

Donations can be made through GoFundMe.

Beckett said it is important to maintain awareness that the war is going into its third year, adding Ukraine needs both ­military and humanitarian backing. “They have had a bit if a setback with respect to the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine,” Beckett said. “They need weapons and they need the medical equipment, food, etc., so I think it’s important that we not forget them.

He said the first trip to Ukraine came with a pledge to a group of mayors “that we would stand with them throughout the war and help them rebuild after Ukraine’s victory.”

“We made that commitment and we’re going to follow through.”

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has organized a 7 pm. fundraising concert at Christ Church Cathedral on Friday, March 1 with proceeds going to promote Ukrainian culture and education in Victoria.

jbell@timescolonist.com

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