The Ukraine border is 8,642 km from South Delta. That’s a long way from Highway 17. Yet the unwarranted invasion of Europe’s biggest country by Russian President Vladimir Putin is affecting us in a myriad of ways.
Like most of us I am outraged and brought to tears by the daily images of death, trauma and destruction of Ukrainian society. The crisis feels close to home. That may be because we have the biggest Ukrainian diaspora in the world with 1.3 million Canadians claiming Ukrainian heritage.
My children’s maternal great-grandparents were Ukrainian immigrant prairie farmers who came for the free land and built a prosperous life in Canada.
Get used to the economic effects of war in Eastern Europe. Starting with those painfully high gas prices, now well over $2 a litre and fluctuating. Air fares, agricultural products and base metals are next.
Soon Ukrainian refugees will begin to arrive in B.C. Will we greet them like the thousands of Berliners who lined train platforms with signs welcoming strangers into their homes? I believe we will.
My husband and I attended a protest against the Russian invasion at the Vancouver Art Gallery three weeks ago. We marched to the harbour front with over 1,000 like-minded people. Support for peace was strong and hatred for Putin was loud.
Those were early days in the conflict and now weeks later the bombing gets louder, the sanctions get tougher, and collateral damage is spreading.
How quickly our focus has shifted. Those days of complaining about masks, vaccine mandates, or freedom for truckers have faded. It all seems trivial when children are dying and millions are fleeing their homes with just the clothes on their backs.
When I look around my community I feel proud to see blue and yellow flags flying, pop up fundraisers, and a generous donation by our city council to the Canadian Red Cross Ukraine relief fund.
Our world is changing, history is being made and our actions matter no matter how far away we are from conflict. The world feels very small right now, so let's open our hearts to those who are suffering.
We are a prosperous community capable of great generosity, because we believe in democratic values and a peaceful world free of conflict.
Ingrid Abbott is a freelance writer and broadcaster who is a grateful Irish immigrant. She’ll have a pint tonight to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and her heritage.