Politics

Hundreds rally in Montreal to denounce Russia, show support for Ukraine


Event started with renditions of the Canadian and Ukrainian national anthems followed by prayers for peace and solidarity.

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Sergii Kashuba knew there was a chance Russian forces would invade Ukraine, but held out hope it wouldn’t happen until the very last moment. Then, just before midnight Thursday, a friend called from the city of Kharkiv with distressing news: he could hear explosions nearby.

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Kashuba, who moved from Ukraine 11 years ago, couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night, scrolling the web for any updates he could find. Unable to focus, he called in sick from work the next day.

His concern has only worsened since then. But on Sunday afternoon, Kashuba joined hundreds of others in downtown Montreal to rally in support of Ukraine and call for an end to the violence threatening their loved ones.

“I can’t stop thinking of what we can do to help, but what can we do?” Kashuba, 38, said at the rally. “So far, we can raise awareness and donate for the brave people who are fighting for the country.”

Hundreds rallied at Place du Canada in Montreal on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Hundreds rallied at Place du Canada in Montreal on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

Held at downtown’s Place du Canada, the rally was one of several similar Montreal demonstrations since the Russian invasion began. It started with renditions of the Canadian and Ukrainian national anthems followed by prayers for peace and solidarity.

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Kostiantyn Ivasenko, 37, was among those in attendance. Holding a Ukrainian flag, Ivasenko said he has felt helpless watching the war unfold from afar and called on governments to do more.

Ivasenko’s mother-in-law lives near Vasylkiv, where an oil terminal caught fire overnight after Russian missiles struck. She has gone into hiding now, he said, to stay safe and avoid any toxic fumes.

“We have a lot of friends (in Ukraine) and they’re extremely exhausted already,” Ivasenko said. “Every time there are sirens they go under the buildings and into bunkers. They all need help right now, and we’re asking all governments to help.”

Luba Demko, 70, echoed a similar call for more aid. Wearing a golden pin showing the Canadian and Ukrainian flags intertwined, she also spoke with pride about how Ukraine has fought back since the invasion began.

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“It hurts. I have no words, really, for what’s going on,” Demko said.

“But what I know is that in Ukraine they are mobilizing and not giving up. I have a friend who lives in the centre of Kyiv, the capital, and they are ready to fight,” she said. “They are fighting and won’t give up. So, hopefully, the world won’t give up on Ukraine.”

Russian Nikolay Volodin was among the hundreds who gathered at Place du Canada in Montreal on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, to decry the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Russian Nikolay Volodin was among the hundreds who gathered at Place du Canada in Montreal on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, to decry the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

In addition to the many Ukrainian flags at Sunday’s rally were posters denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin and criticizing Russia for its military assault. Walking among them was 34-year-old Russian Nikolay Volodin, holding his own sign denouncing the war and supporting Ukraine.

Volodin grew up in a Russian town bordering the two countries, where his mother remains today, and said it has never been lost on him how similar people from both nations are.

“I feel it’s partially … not our guilt but our responsibility, as Russians, that we didn’t take Putin down before,” Volodin added, noting he has been in power for more than two decades. “So for me, as Russians, either here, abroad or in Russia, it’s important to show that we do not support what’s happening.”

jfeith@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jessefeith

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