Skip to content

Yorktonites rally in support of Ukraine

Concerns about what comes next
ukraine 3
Signs and flags were on display for the people of Ukraine currently facing a military invasion from Russia.

YORKTON - A rally in support of Ukraine was held Sunday at City Centre Park in Yorkton. 

The turnout was a good one in the eyes of organizer Larissa Vancaeseele Chair of the Yorkton branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.  

“I’m very encouraged by the turnout we had today,” she said, estimating the crowd at more than 100, adding those showing support for Ukraine ranged from the young to the elderly. 

Vancaeseele said while many in the crowd had direct family ties to Ukraine at some point, others were just people in the community showing support for a country facing invasion by Russia military forces. 

The showing of flags and signs supporting the people of Ukraine was a symbol to the people facing Russian guns. 

Yorkton Mayor Mitch Hippsley said support for the rally was a good sign. 

“My heart goes out to them,” he said of those in Ukraine. 

At the same time Hippsley, said the aggression behind the rally it “is absolutely horrific’ especially when the Russian invasion of Ukraine might actually grow into what could be “World War III.” 

The situation in Ukraine is certainly unsettling, as Oksana Hamm read off a series of excerpts of the war’s early days. 

“I’m very emotional (with) what’s happening in Ukraine,” she said, as she read that 198 civilians, including children had already been killed, with more than 1,000 wounded. 

Hamm said many are “hiding in basements with fear for their lives.” 

Yorkton MLA Greg Ottenbreit said the support shown for Ukraine was “heartwarming,” but that was not surprising given how many people in the city and area trace connections to Ukraine.  

Ottenbreit said he himself married into a Ukrainian family, and through his involvement as Ukraine Relations Minister for seven years, got to know officials from Ukraine. 

Through that position Ottenbreit said he became more aware of the history of Ukraine “and more recent happenings.” 

In that regard Ottenbreit noted the Russian takeover in Crimea, “where people were dying every day,” a situation where there were warnings of more interference by Russia likely to happen. “. . . It’s come to fruition now.” 

Ottenbreit said it is unfortunate more world leaders had not paid attention to what the Crimea invasion was a prelude too, suggesting it was an unheard wake-up call. 

Vancaeseele acknowledged that she feels the rest of the world must do more to support Ukraine. 

“I do not think we are doing enough,” she said. 

At present the reaction by those opposing the invasion outside Ukraine appears focused on sanctions, for example Canada suspending export permits to Russia, but Vancaeseele said that will not be enough. 

“Russia is not going to back down to sanctions,” she said. 

Asked if that means troops must be sent to Ukraine, Vancaeseele said she wasn’t sure she was ready to suggest that, then added “I fear that other countries will need to support Ukraine (with troops).” 

At this point Ottenbreit said the Canadian reaction has done about all that can be expected at this point. 

“At this point there’s not a whole lot more to expect,” he said. 

One of the moves by the Canadian government has been to fast track immigration from Ukraine. 

Ottenbreit said his government is already discussing how to help that process, noting Saskatchewan has long been a destination for immigrants from Ukraine. 

Hippsley said thousands from Ukraine immigrated to the local area from the 1890s through to the 1920s, and they will welcome more now. 

“As Canadians it’s what we do,” he said. 

The rally Sunday was the only activity scheduled locally for now, said Vancaeseele, adding their national body of the UCC is sending out updates on the situation in Ukraine regularly, and things are changing hourly.