Good morning. Wendy Cox in Vancouver this morning.
I grew up in Saskatchewan and worked for a time in Winnipeg. I have zero Ukrainian ancestry, but have long believed the perfect perogy is swimming in some sort of heavenly fat, pillowy but not soggy, drenched in sour cream and onions and served – this is a must – in a church basement at midnight at a wedding reception in a small Prairie town. I’ve never seen Alberta’s giant Ukrainian Easter egg in Vegreville, but I understand the community’s decision to build a tourist attraction around it.
Canada’s Ukrainian community – the first wave of immigrants from there began before the First World War – is a deeply entrenched part of Western Canada’s rural culture and the events of the last week are devastating to watch.
Some Canadians are not content to just watch.
This week, reporter Xiao Xu wrote about a Chilliwack couple who have been working in the western part of Ukraine to take in and help find shelter for dozens of refugees and 52 orphans. All arrived at the property of Chad and Mary Martz, who have been living in the Carpathian Mountain region in the southwest, after fleeing the day after the Russians attacked.
The Martzes have been working with the Chilliwack-based Hungry For Life for 18 years. Ms. Martz was born in Ukraine and, in the past, the couple made frequent trips from their home in British Columbia to Ukraine to assist groups and churches in providing compassionate care.
Their latest trip to western Ukraine last summer was for personal reasons: They wanted to finish building a home they invested in there 14 years ago, and planned to return to Chilliwack in August, 2022, so that their daughter could finish high school.
Now, they’re not sure when they will be back in Canada and their Ukraine home, completed less than two months ago, is now housing their family and people who are on the run from the country’s conflict zones.
“Things have changed quite quickly,” Mr. Martz said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
In Victoria, Mark Preston-Horin, 43, said he has been writing his will and completing his taxes in anticipation of getting on a flight overseas to volunteer for Ukrainian forces in whatever capacity he can. Mr. Preston-Horin, who is Ukrainian by heritage, said he doesn’t have a network awaiting him. So he has been calling both Canadian and Ukrainian officials in Canada to ask how to join the cause.
“It’s tough when you don’t have a clear picture of what you’re getting into,” he said, adding he wants to know what the federal government would do to support any Canadians who are hurt or captured.
In Toronto, 18-year-old Yaroslav Hrytsiuk went to his high school Tuesday morning to say goodbye. That afternoon, he was leaving for Europe in hopes of joining volunteers travelling to his native Ukraine to take up arms against Russia.
“Today, I’m going to Ukraine to stand with my family and fight for my country,” the teenager said at the doorstep of his Toronto home. A Ukrainian-Canadian who arrived in Toronto only last year, he said he considers himself lucky for having had a birthday in January, which officially makes him of age to fight. He said he hopes to join his father, who is preparing to fight Russians invading their home city of Lviv.
Mr. Hrytsiuk proudly displayed a fluorescent bristol-board card his Grade 12 classmates had just given him scrawled with magic-marker messages.
“Everything is going to be fine,” said one.
Columnist Gary Mason, who is based in Western Canada, noted this week that while Canada’s response has been robust in terms of the economic measures this country has taken, it is reasonable as a Canadian to be a bit sheepish that this country isn’t doing more.
He writes no one “wants to see the young men and women of their country going off to fight a war on foreign land. But if this conflict in Ukraine is as important as [Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia] Freeland says it is, then you would think it would be important enough for the free world to get behind it in the fullest means possible.
“I suppose the least we can do in Canada then is not complain when the consequences of the sanctions put in place to strangle the Russian economy begin to affect us here – because they will.”
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.