The effects of the ongoing situation in Ukraine have been seen worldwide, following Russia beginning its invasion less than a week ago.

For 89-year-old Kenora resident, Nick Kristalovich, who has a personal connection to Ukraine said he can’t believe what is going on.

“We are sad and we are appalled by what is happening in this day and age,” said Kristalovich. “I kind of look at this as a Goliath and David.”

Kristalovich was born in Canada after his parents immigrated from a small community in western Ukraine in the early 1900s.

Though he wasn’t born in Ukraine the Kenora resident has several friends currently in the country after many past trips overseas.

He has been in contact with a few friends that wish to remain anonymous, who live in western Ukraine, and spoke about the current severity of the situation.

“There has been no sign of war or bombings, but the women and children are prepared to leave anytime for the little villages an hour or two from the city in the event bombings should start. The men will stay back and whatever the situation might present may enlist.”

“I’m sad that this is happening, but they are so happy and so excited that I am calling. It is heartwarming but at the same time I am here concerned, and I know they are concerned.”

After weeks of tensions between Russia, and Ukraine, last week Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled the trigger and began invading the eastern part of the country with bombs and tanks.

On Monday (February 28, 2022), Russian troops closed in on the capital city of Kyiv with a convoy of tanks and other vehicles. This has caused many families to go underground into basements to find shelter and protection from Russian troops.

Though this site has been hard for Kristalovich and the Ukrainian community in Northwestern Ontario to watch, he has been amazed by the outpouring amount of support that they have seen. 

“I feel good about it as I meet people here, they’re so excited, they know who I am. When one young lady comes and says… Mr. K have you got a flag of Ukraine? Which I did have and you see it in front of City Hall.”

Ukriane Flag Mar 2.jpg The Ukrainian flag is flying high in front of City Hall.

“We are proud and there are people asking what can I do to help? These people are happy that in Ukraine that the rest of the world is with them. There’s unity, there’s solidarity, we all feel for this country and that is important and that helps their cause. They’re not alone in this struggle.”

Last week, in response Ontario announced they will be donating $300,000 in humanitarian aid to help assist the people of Ukraine, which will go to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation.

The donation will be used in a humanitarian capacity such as providing medical aid, emergency shelter, and food security in Ukraine.  The Canada-Ukraine Foundation will ensure the donation will be used to provide assistance quickly and efficiently to people and families in need.

The province will also be on standby to assist anyone fleeing from Ukraine who is in need of settlement services. Settlement agencies support newcomers and refugees to find housing, employment, health services, and more when they arrive in Ontario.

Kristolavich had previously raised money with his granddaughters and extended family to purchase a lawnmower for a nearby Ukrainian school. The family now has a plaque within the school to commemorate their generosity.

Ukraine Pic 1.jpg Courtesy of Nick Kristalovich.
Ukraine Pic 2.jpg Courtesy of Nick Kristalovich.

In this time of uncertainly and tragedy, Kristalovich wants to remember Ukraine as what it was and what it has turned into before the invasion.

“The vast improvements in the infrastructure, the roads, the conditions. The improvements in the private homes. It is a beautiful country, the people are very kind, very sociable, they host you, they’re excited to welcome you.”

Though no definite reason has been released into why exactly Russia is invading Ukraine, Kristalovich believes it to be due to what the country has to and wants to offer.

“Ukraine has a lot of rich minerals that are rare. The freedom that [President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy was hoping for the people of Ukraine, and joining the United Nations, which they are not part of yet. He [Vladimir Putin] is afraid that the socialist system would be disintegrated, the people would see their neighbours doing so much better.”

In response to the horrific actions taken by Russia, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has invoked over 100 sanctions, which include financial penalties against individuals and entities and the halting of export permits.

Trudeau will be sending an additional 460 military personnel to the approximately 800 currently in Europe.

The Prime Minister has also authorized 3,400 Canadian Armed Forces personnel across all branches to deploy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Response Force, should they be required.