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Comment: Many ways we can support Ukrainians

A memorial service for Ukrainians will held at Centennial Square from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
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A Ukrainian serviceman guards his position in Mariupol, Ukraine on March 12, 2022. Mstyslav Chernov, The Associated Press

A commentary by two Victoria residents.

Saturday marks the second year of Russia’s brutal and senseless invasion of Ukraine. Of course, this is just an escalation of Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine when in February 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea and fighting continues in the Donbas region.

While Adolf Hitler was before our time, there seems no end to the list of brutal dictators in our world and during our lifetimes.

We won’t go through an exhaustive list, but Uganda’s Idi Amin, Cambodia’s Pol Pot, Haiti’s Francois Duvalier (aka Papa Doc), Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and North Korea’s Kim Jong-il are just a handful of the dictators that come to mind.

If there was any doubt that Vladimir Putin was a dictator, the invasions of Ukraine put that to rest. The recent murder of Alexei Navalny, an imprisoned political leader, who was serving a 19-year prison sentence for daring to speak up against Putin, just added to the reality that if you live in Putin’s Russia, you bow down to him, or pay the consequences.

For those of us on Vancouver Island, we might feel helpless, not able to do anything to end the brutality of Putin and his forces, killing innocent people every day in Ukraine.

While we can feel proud that Ukrainian people continue to fight to preserve their country and way of life, that sense of pride won’t win their war.

And of course, with the ridiculous politics south of the border of Republican legislators bowing down to their own want-to-be dictator, Donald Trump, and depriving Ukraine of much needed armaments and other aid, it means the rest of the world has to step up until the Americans come to their senses.

No, as individual Canadians, we can’t amass the billions needed to fight Putin’s troops and weapons, but we can help in other ways. We can support Ukrainians who have settled here on the Island and we can support Ukrainian Canadian organizations who are in constant contact with those who know what is needed.

• Give money to the Ukrainian Newcomers Fund in Victoria through the St Nicholas Ukrainian Church.

They fund the Ukrainian Village, founded in 2022 to offer mothers and children fleeing the war in Ukraine with safe family-oriented transitional housing and basic resettling support.

Last year, this fund housed 79 adults and children, 34 of which are now self-sustaining and living and working on Vancouver Island. There is so much more the fund supports and their costs run $10,000 per month.

Donate atstnicholasparish.org and find “Donate to Help Ukrainians Arriving on South Vancouver Island” for a tax-receipted donation.

• Donate to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation (CUF) which “monitors and promotes programs that support humanitarian aid, medical assistance, education, social welfare, and good governance. CUF communicates and collaborates with aid providers and donors in Ukraine, Canada, and beyond to maximize impact and cost-effectiveness of our support.”

They are at ­cufoundation.ca.

• Help Ukraine Vancouver Island Society which is a “volunteer-led organization supporting displaced Ukrainians across Vancouver Island. Together with partner agencies, we direct and assist displaced Ukrainians in creating decent and safe new lives for themselves and their families.”

While this society can’t issue tax receipts, you can still donate items they need, or gift cards, or money as well. They are at ukrainehelpvi.ca.

Here’s one thing you might want to consider. When Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago, we turned on our Christmas lights on our front lawn.

We kept the lights on every night since, and over time, we added a Ukrainian flag and a sign saying “Lights of hope for Ukraine.” It might seem silly, but we’ve heard from several Ukrainians who have fled their home country and when they’ve seen our display, it has brought tears to their eyes.

If you felt so included, perhaps for this weekend, you could turn on some lights on your lawn or balcony or in your window. A little flag would be nice, or anything you want to let displaced Ukrainians know we welcome them, we feel deeply for their country and their circumstances and we hope for a free Ukraine one day soon. You can also attend the memorial service for Ukrainians, at Centennial Square from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Perhaps we’ll see you there.

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