Sergey Kulikov has never felt further away from his father.
It has been an anxious few days for the Ladner resident and his family as they watch in horror the Russian invasion of Ukraine including his hometown of Kharkiv where Sergey’s 80-year-old father Vladimir Kulikov resides. The northeastern city, located about 650 km from Moscow, is Ukraine’s second largest city with a population of 1.4 million.
Since the invasion, Sergey has communicated with his dad and other friends in the Ukraine over the Internet using Whatsapp and Viber.
“There’s emotions, lots of emotions, especially with my father still there,” Sergey told the Optimist. “He said they are being shelled all night long with some pauses, but he’s still had to go down to the subway station (serving as a bomb shelter) and stay there overnight. I also have friends in Kyiv and Kharkiv. Everybody is writing that somebody is fighting. It’s very dramatic there.”
Sergey was born and raised in Kharkiv and moved to Canada 23 years ago after graduating from the National University Kharkiv. He now works as a web developer. The last time he visited his family back home was for his mother’s funeral in 2017.
“I didn’t expect the bond would be so strong that you feel this,” he continued. “When you see all these photos and videos from there and you see the places where you were with your friends and where you had a fun childhood. It’s definitely heartbreaking.”
As tension built between the two countries, Sergey didn’t believe Russian President Vladimir Putin would follow through with his threat of military action. Now he thinks there will be no turning back.
“After the last moment, we all thought he was bluffing just to raise the stakes in his negotiations or demands to demilitarize Ukraine or whatever, but then after his recognition of those so called republics, it was quite clear he was coming,” Sergey added. “I think he will now try to get it done to the very end. There’s been too much of an effort already.”
Seeing the images on television of the horrors in Ukraine also hits close to home for Delta Mayor George Harvie.
Harvie is the grandchild of Ukrainian grandparents who fled their country to escape the ravages of the First World War.
“I do remember my grandparents. Unfortunately they passed away in the mid-60s here in Vancouver,” he said. “I do remember seeing my grandfather’s medals. He was a decorated a solider. How he managed to escape Kiev in the early 20s to finally come to Calgary where my mom was born and then to Vancouver is mind boggling. We complain about missing a flight somewhere versus what they went through. They didn’t talk about it much, but my middle name is Vasily, which is after my grandfather and my first name George is from my other grandfather who came from Scotland, but it really touches my soul when I think of my relatives.
“I did get a family tree done by a group here in Delta, on both sides, and it was really interesting to see the family chain. I was hoping to travel there and actually do a river cruise. Maybe I will still get to do that, but my hopes are diminishing.
“To feel what those people are going through, and the horror, this is so painful. It puts a black cloud over our whole world.”
Andrew Neufeld from Ladner’s Alongside You says this Russian invasion is eerily similar to what his family went through in Ukraine.
“My family is originally from Ukraine. My grandparents were the last generation there,” he said. “They came to Canada during the Russian revolution. Farming was booming and the economy was booming, which is not a lot different to what is happening now. The Russians decided we don’t like the fact that Ukrainians are doing well, particularily the Mennonites.
“This is what brought my family…who were literally chased by the Red Army to the border being fired at while trying to escape the country. We came to Canada, with literally nothing. My grandparents said ‘with just the shirts on their backs,’ and the only way they survived was because of the generosity of the Canadian people who took them in as refuges.”
Neufeld said he lived in Ukraine for three months between high school and starting his undergrad for bible study.
“We spent three and a half months in the middle area of Ukraine, working in orphanage’s, teaching and other relief work,” he recalled. “They are an amazing people, but a lot of them, at that time, 20 years ago, people didn’t have a lot of resources and income. They didn’t have a lot then, so my major concern now is, do they have anything now and how are people going to escape? They are going to need a lot of help. Canada really has to consider and take responsibility to open our doors to refugees like we did with the Middle East. We opened up our doors, welcomed them in, set up programs for them. We need to do that for these people. Otherwise they won’t be able to get out.”
On Saturday night, a small candlelight vigil was held by about 10 or so residents at Ladner’s Memorial Park, where the group met at the cenotaph.
The City of Delta has changed their outside lights on municipal hall in Ladner and other Delta facilities to flash in blue and yellow in support of Ukraine.
At the Delta Ice Hawks game on Sunday night, the entire 50/50 draw proceeds were donated to the Canadian Red Cross for the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal.
The $3,140 included all of the winner’s portion being donated, along with Ice Hawks owner Eduard Ephstein matching the entire pot. With the Canadian government matching all Red Cross donations, the night’s grand total was $6,280.
Mr. Mom’s Catering World, based out of East Delta Hall, announced 10 percent of its food proceeds will be donated to the Canadian Ukraine Foundation. Featuring Ukrainian favourites, it is open Tuesdays and Sundays (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) for takeout and also takes online orders at mrmomscateringworld.com.