SASKATOON — Hundreds from Saskatoon’s Ukrainian community members and supporters braved the chilly Sunday afternoon weather to show their opposition to Russia’s aggressive move in their home country and drum up calls for a peaceful resolution to the conflict that has cost lives and displaced thousands.
Marchers converged at City Hall’s Civic Square starting at 2 p.m. with a short program where they heard leaders from their community and local officials share inspiring words of comfort and continued pleas for peace between both nations.
Waving Ukrainian flags, carrying banners that showed messages of STOP WAR and STOP PUTIN the crowd, which ballooned to an estimate of over 1,000, marched from Civic Square to Spadina Crescent and back before concluding their peaceful protest.
Irina Matouk, who is the co-chair of the Saskatchewan-Ukraine Community Response Committee and the representative of the Saskatchewan-Ukraine Advisory Committee, said Sunday’s protest is just one of others that are happening in other cities across the globe to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
“There have been a number of different events held in other places. We had one like this last Wednesday before the war broke. Regina and Yorkton had their events, too, and possibly in other small locations. But on the national level, it has been happening in multiple locations,” Matouk told SASKTODAY.ca.
She said that she was moved by the outpouring of support not just from their community but from everyone in Saskatoon.
“We were expecting hundreds of people and we did not expect to see this many. From my estimate, we probably have over 1,000, which is, in a way, kind of comforting for us and we really appreciate it. A lot of people are also showing their support by making donations,” said Matouk.
“It’s nice to see this kind of crowd turn out, but we wish that it was for a better reason, as a celebration of some sort. A celebration of our culture as our Ukrainian community usually has before. We really appreciate everyone that came out to support us in this hard time.”
She added the situation in their homeland is what’s being reported in the news and it’s the same thing that their relatives talk about whenever they get the chance to talk to them.
“When we talk to our families, it is very scary. You don’t know if tomorrow you would be able to reach them again and you don’t know if everything is going to be OK for many of us. A lot of people now have been able to leave the big cities to go to more rural areas,” said Matouk.
“In rural areas that seem to be a little bit better for now because a lot of the action and fighting is happening around the big cities where there’s infrastructure like military bases, hospitals and everything else.”
Matouk said that she was a bit relieved that her family had already left the city but her thoughts remain with other Ukrainians whose relatives are facing a different situation and conditions are worsening as Russia seems prepared for a long conflict.