Port Coquitlam and Kyiv, Ukraine are thousands of miles apart but the ties are strong.
From watching TV coverage to trying to find ways to help refugees fleeing the war-torn country or supporting those resisting invasion, many Tri-City residents are keenly interested in events in the eastern European country.
But one man, whose wife is of Ukrainian heritage, has decided to step up to help — and the City of Port Coquitlam is also answering the call.
Andrew Richards, an 18-year Canadian army veteran who served as a peacekeeper in Bosnia and served in Afghanistan, has just delivered several of boxes of supplies, including blankets, stretchers, bandages, gauze pads, dressings and first-aid kits, to a Burnaby warehouse for shipment to Ukraine.
They were all donated by PoCo's fire and emergency services department and are destined for Lviv, in western Ukraine, for use by sick and injured soldiers and refugees.
Richards said these key medical supplies are critically needed and he is thankful the City of Port Coquitlam was able to help.
Richards said he learned via a Global TV story about the efforts of a Vancouver realtor, Olga Zarudina, to gather supplies for her former country. He contacted her to see what he could do to help.
The Canadian border guard who lives with his wife — a Global national producer — and their two young children in PoCo, said his years in the military has given him knowledge of what's needed in Ukraine, where homes are being shelled, creating the largest European refugee movement since WWII.
MEDICAL SUPPLIES AND TRAUMA KITS TO BE DELIVERED TO UKRAINE
Already the first shipment of 200 kilograms of military and medical supplies has been shipped to Ukraine via Vienna and Richards said Port Coquitlam's contributions will be delivered in a subsequent shipment.
He said he contacted the city's mayor, Brad West, and was assured that the city would help.
"The next day, I had a phone call from the fire chief (Robert Kipps), and they said 'we're putting together some stuff. We'll let you know when to come to pick it up.' So yeah, it all happened pretty quick."
For Richards, the tragedy unfolding in the Ukraine is difficult to watch but he and his wife are keeping up to date with what's going on.
"It's like a lot of people I think, you know, it hits close to home," said Richards, who said his wife still has relatives in Ukraine.
Mayor Brad West said the donations are a small gesture of support to the Ukrainian people.
Massive shout out to Mayor @BradWestPoCo and the #PoCoFire department for their generous donation of first aid and trauma supplies for #Ukraine Much Appreciated! 🇨🇦 🤝 🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine️ @ukrcancongress @Ukraine @CityofPoCo #UkraineUnderAttack pic.twitter.com/9yERbiaIVA— 🇨🇦 Andrew 🙏 🇺🇦 (@andyoldstock) March 10, 2022
IMAGES OF WAR IN UKRAINE ARE 'DEVASTATING,' SAYS MAYOR
"This is the very least we could do. The images of towns being devastated, children and maternity hospitals being destroyed and hundreds of Ukrainians being killed is heartbreaking," West told the Tri-City News.
"At the same time, it has been been inspiring to watch the bravery and courage of Ukrainians fighting to save their country from a completely unjustified invasion."
The community has a large Ukrainian population, he noted, further solidifying the bonds between Canada and the Ukraine.
Richards, meanwhile, plans to use his contacts to gather more supplies and to help volunteers at the south Burnaby warehouse sort the items.
To him, the war in Ukraine is unprecedented in modern times and it's something he feels he needs to do.
"This doesn't usually happen in Europe. Right?" Richards said. "It's kind of the scale of it... There's a lot of vulnerable people that are going to need a lot of help."