Anastasiya, who has close family members under siege in Kyiv, Ukraine, holds a sign at a vigil held in Rotary Park, Saturday, Feb. 26. (Photo courtesy Tamara Cartwright)

Anastasiya, who has close family members under siege in Kyiv, Ukraine, holds a sign at a vigil held in Rotary Park, Saturday, Feb. 26. (Photo courtesy Tamara Cartwright)

Group formed to help unite Ukrainian refugees with relatives in region

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine ongoing, a group of concerned Cranbrook citizens have gathered to establish a community-based committee to help bring the immediate family members and other refugees from the Ukraine to be reunited with their relatives in Cranbrook and the Kootenay region.

The stated goal of the new group is to be able to help bring as many women, children and immediate families to the area.

“We want this to spread to every community in the East and West Kootenay” said Terry Segarty, committee member. “Every village and community where there is available housing and schools can help.”

Wayne Stetski has been in contact with the Federal and Provincial governments. And organizers say that recent and upcoming announcements indicate that we will have considerations to move forward with fundraising and expediting paper work to help.

In the meantime, vigils will be held weekly on Sunday evenings at 7 pm in Rotary Park, Cranbrook, to gather, receive updates and support each other during this horrific war on a peaceful country. Volunteers and funds will be needed in the coming days. Emotional support for the families affected, will also be needed in these trying times. Please join us and bring your candle.

The board is comprised of John Hudak (Chair), Terry Segarty, Wayne Stetski, Sharon Cross, Tamara Cartwright, Mark and Bonnie Spence-Vinge, Dawn Fenwick, Father Andrew Applegate, and Mike Ortynski.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is now into its second week, with Russian forces advancing and Ukrainians putting up stiff resistance. Infrastructure and civilian areas have been targeted by airstrikes and rocket attacks. The global community community has responded with a economic blockade of Russia and support to the beleaguered Ukrainian defence, but the war continues.

In Cranbrook, the first vigil in support of Ukraine was held Saturday, Feb. 26, in Rotary Park. Among the speakers was Anastasiya, and young Ukrainian woman living in Cranbrook who thanked the “lovely people of Cranbrook” for their attendance and support.

“A few of us are Ukrainian immigrants and the last few days have been really hard for us, as I’m sure you already know,” Anastasiya said.

“The war has been happening for the last eight years. Just for perspective here, my brother is nine years old so he has never been able to say that he’s from an independent country.

“This war is not only a war for sovereignty of Ukraine, it is also a war for Ukraine to simply exist. Today, I saw a post on Instagram that said “If Russia stops fighting, there will be no war, if Ukraine stops fighting there will be no Ukraine.’ That phrase describes the situation very well, because if we give up now we will lose our country on the map.

Anastasiya said her grandparents, cousin, and her children are sleeping in a cold wet basement [on the night of Feb. 26].

“They are from Kyiv, the most heavily attacked city in Ukraine. They barely have enough food and water and tomorrow they will wake up to sounds of bombs and guns. I check my phone every three hours to see if they are still alive.”

She said she was able to call her relatives for the first time on Saturday, Feb. 26, for the first time since the war started.

“As hard as it has been, everyone in Cranbrook has been showing a lot of support to us, and that means more to us than you can imagine.”