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Terror looms a world away

Edmonton’s Ukrainian community listens nervously,
as Russian sabre-rattling grows louder

Leaders of the Ukrainian Catholic Church are asking members to pray that history won’t repeat itself. (Natasja Pitcher).

By Natasja Pitcher

WITH TENSIONS GROWING stronger between Russia and Ukraine, the sense of uncertainty is rising in Edmonton’s large Ukrainian-Canadian community.

Over the past several years, the conflict between the two Eastern European nations has been worsening, leaving local Ukrainian-Canadians nervous about the future of their other home. Russia has deployed more than 100,000 troops along Ukrainian borders, but president Vladimir Putin denies that he plans to invade. 

“There’s not a lot that can be done, but there are three things that we’re really encouraging,” says Victoria Kostyniuk, of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton.

The first is prayer.

There are 1.3 million Ukrainian Catholics and Orthodox in Canada – the third largest population in the world after Ukraine and Russia – and a large number live in the Edmonton area.

Right now, community leaders are “really encouraging people to pray for peace, unity, and strength,” for all those suffering from the crisis, Kostyniuk says.

The second thing they are urging is to spread awareness.

To accomplish this, Kostyniuk says people need to share information, “on social media or talking with your colleagues at work.”

She stresses the importance of raising public awareness of the situation in Ukraine, in which an authoritarian state is threatening a democratic one.   

‘It’s just concerning that something
like this could happen again’

In 1991, Ukraine became an independent state after the breakup of the Soviet Union. In 2014, Russia seized and annexed Crimea, then stationed troops in the breakaway eastern region of Donbas. It is only the recent escalation in tensions that brought Ukraine’s Western allies into the peace-making process. 

“It’s never really stopped; it’s just lost its attention,” Kostyniuk says.

The third way people can help is through donations.

The Eparchy of Edmonton has set up a place on its website where people can donate to humanitarian relief.

With the fears of military action only increasing, Kostyniuk says, many people around her, “are very concerned, especially with the worry that history will repeat itself.” 

“During the Soviet Union there was a famine [under Stalin, known as the Holomodor, or “terror famine”], and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was made illegal; so, there was an underground church. There were several martyrs. So, it’s just concerning that something like this could happen again. I hope and pray that it doesn’t.”

The Soviet Union was established in 1922 and held power until 1991. During these times, thousands of Ukrainians fled the country for economic and political reasons, with many of them emigrating to Canada. 

Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful, and the crisis continues today.  

In an article on, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is quoted as saying the collapse of the Soviet Union was a “geopolitical catastrophe.” That outlook leaves Ukrainian-Canadians fearful of a possible re-emergence of the Soviet state. 

Currently, the Western allies – Canada, the United States and Europe – have been working to find a peaceful resolution with Russia.

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