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Ukrainian flags flying out the door at Victoria flag shop

“The day the Russians crossed the border, we sold everything we had in 20 minutes."
Seamstress Freyja Zazu works on Ukranian flags for the Flag Shop on Monday. The sewing machine hasn't stopped at the Flag Shop since Russians invaded Ukraine last week. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The blue and yellow fabric is dwindling fast at Paul Servos’s downtown Flag Shop.

Printed and custom-made Ukrainian flags have been flying out the door since the Russian army invaded the country last Thursday, Servos said.

“The day the Russians crossed the border, we sold everything we had in 20 minutes,” he said. “Now we’re just trying to make as many as we can, as quickly as we can, before the supplies run out.”

Servos, his wife, Maggie Rennick, and seamstress Freyja Zazu have been cutting and sewing the Ukraine bi-colour flag non-stop, making about 20 flags a day from their single sewing machine and limited work space. By Monday, 76 custom-sewn flags were airborne at various places around the region.

They’ve made a 12-foot flag for the Ukrainian Canadian Cultural Centre — featured prominently at Sunday’s legislature rally — and another currently flying atop the Hotel Grand Pacific on the Inner Harbour.

Servos has also made Ukrainian flags for Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay to fly in city squares, and has enough fabric for a few dozen more before he runs out of the polyester material.

Servos figures printed flags will start arriving from China in about two weeks — an irony, he notes, because the country hasn’t joined the worldwide condemnation of Russia.

More blue and yellow material for the custom flags will likely follow, said Servos.

“We’re getting lots of orders, but we can’t fill them all at this point. People are stopping in the store. They want to show support for Ukraine.”

Rennick, whose grandparents emigrated to Canada from Ukraine in the early 1900s, said Victorians can also show their support for the country by making small flags with coloured sheets of paper or by using similar colours from fabrics.

The Russian invasion came as a shock for Rennick, and provided an opportunity for the Saskatchewan native to explore her heritage. She said her family name was originally Hrynyk, but was changed to Rennick because it was easier for Canadians to understand and write.

Her grandparents and parents never taught the next generation the language because “at that time, they were embarrassed,” she said.

Rennick said she is doing what she can to support Ukraine, where she still has relations. “It’s horrific what’s happened. These are just ordinary people like us and they’re caught up in war by a tyrant,” she said.

Servos said several people have asked if they can help staff make the flags, but he said the shop and machines are in a confined space and the sewing is limited to a single machine. “It’s going as fast as we can make it,” he said. “We really appreciate how people are responding. We’re just a small company doing what we can to make a difference.”

The Times Colonist is publishing a pullout Ukraine flag in Wednesday’s print edition.

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