A Ukrainian organization in the province is asking Manitobans to help soldiers who have been seriously wounded in combat with Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.
More than 9,000 people, both military and civilians, have died during almost two years of conflict in eastern Ukraine, according to United Nations estimates released in early January.
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The casualties include hundreds of soldiers who have lost limbs and been seriously hurt, and the Manitoba Provincial Council of the Euromaidan committee of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC-MPC) is hoping to drum up support in Manitoba to help them.
The Toronto-based "Adopt a Soldier" volunteer initiative pairs soldiers with Canadian sponsors who provide them with monthly stipends of $50 US or more, said Denys Volkov, a committee chairperson with the Manitoba Provincial Council of the UCC.
"It sounds like a small amount to us, but it's actually a significant amount for many of them because unfortunately, the government of Ukraine cannot provide sufficient support for those who have been injured during this war," Volkov said, adding the organization is partnering with Ukraine War Amps to get the money to amputees.
Oleh Voloshyn, who lost his left leg and left hand in the conflict, is one of the soldiers benefiting from the program, Volkov said. He received $750 US from the UCC-MPC in December — a little more than what the monthly minimum donation amounts to over 12 months.
Soldiers like Voloshyn face a lot of stress and financial uncertainty, Volkov said.
"I've visited with a few soldiers months ago [in hospital], and I asked them whether or not they're going to be supported when they are released from hospital. Many of them didn't know or the amount they were promised was so minimal."
All of the money donated goes directly to the soldiers, Volkov said. Once the transfer is received, soldiers also send donors a letter and photo of themselves.
Adopt a Soldier is one of several Ukraine support initiatives started since the beginning of the crisis. The Manitoba government and UCC-MPC also jointly sent three ambulances to the region in early January.
More information about the Adopt a Solider program and other humanitarian aid campaigns is available on the UCC-MPC website and on the Ukraine War Amps Facebook page.
Volkov encourages Manitobans interested in getting more involved in the local Ukrainian community to reach out to the UCC-MPC.
"We are always [happy] to help build links between people here who want to help Ukraine and Ukrainians who need help," he said.