Montreal’s Ukrainian group fears for his or her homeland as Russia assaults

Montreal’s Ukrainian community is reeling in the face of their homeland’s full-scale invasion by Russia.

Reports say Russian forces are attacking from all sides of Ukraine by land, sea and air, and two neighboring countries — Belarus and Moldova — have declared states of emergency.

Ukrainians account for roughly 44,000 of Montreal’s residents. On Thursday, the day after the invasion began, Quebec leaders said they were ready to send help to the invaded country, including accepting refugees, and sent sympathies to the local community as well.

At the Zytynsky Deli in Montreal’s Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie borough on Wednesday, before the invasion officially began, the situation happening in Ukraine was already top of everyone’s minds.

“Every customer. Some of my customers will just open the door and yell, ‘Bon courage, Angel. Ça va bien aller,’” said Angel Zytynski.

Zytynski, the granddaughter of Ukrainian immigrants, still worries about her ancestral homeland.

“It hasn’t been easy. It’s been on my mind, even though I don’t have any contact over there, but there’s always someone in store — their son, their daughter, or their granddaughter — that’s there,” she said.

The images are scary and the unpredictability of the situation is keeping people up at night.

On Thursday afternoon, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante tweeted a photo of the Ukrainian flag being raised at City Hall and expressed her “solidarity with the Ukrainian people and their community in Montreal.”

In solidarity with the people of Ukraine and their communauté in Montréal, the drapeau de l’Ukraine fleet devant l’hôtel de Ville. Nos pensées accompagnent toutes les victims innocentes de cette attaque. Nous sommes de tout coeur avec vous. 🇺🇦 #polmtl

— Valérie Plante (@Val_Plante) February 24, 2022

Father Volodymyr Kouchnir of the Saint Sophie Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral has relative living far from the Russian border, but he’s still having trouble sleeping.

“I’m concerned and worried if the Putin regime will go further and to invade the whole Ukraine, because if I understand correctly, the idea and the tendency of the Putin regime is to invade the whole of Ukraine,” he said.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) believes many in the community will soon start looking to bring family to Canada if the situation continues to deteriorate.

“We’re on pins and needles,” said Michael Shwec, president of the Quebec branch of the UCC. “Right now what we’re seeing is probably more of a migration from the eastern part of Ukraine to the western part of Ukraine.”

As Ukrainian-Canadians are thankful for the support from Canada and other NATO countries, the fear is it may not be enough.

“Only one person knows how it’s going to be and how [the situation will progress] and that person is Mr. Putin,” said Ms. Kouchnir.

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