'We're not alone': Winnipeg rally in support of Ukraine draws thousands to Manitoba legislature
Conflict touches about 180,000 Manitobans who are of Ukrainian descent
Thousands of people gathered around the Manitoba legislature on Sunday to raise their voices in support of Ukrainians at home and abroad, calling for peace and an end to the Russian invasion.
People wore blue and yellow face paint, Ukrainian flags and traditional Ukrainian garb to show their support for family and friends affected by the violence either directly or indirectly. About 180,000 Manitobans are of Ukrainian descent.
Andrii Shcherbukha immigrated to Manitoba from Ukraine 10 years ago and has participated in a number of rallies since Russia invaded 12 days ago.
The violence in Ukraine hits home for him.
Shcherbukha's mother just crossed the Ukrainian border into Poland, and he hopes to eventually get her to Canada.
"We are far away and every [time] I'm calling my mother, she doesn't answer within the three rings, three seconds, my heart just stops," he said.
"We believe it's really important that that's everybody's not frightened or forgetting this very important issue. The issue that I believe that is important to anyone, regardless of whether you have Ukrainian heritage or not."
Valerii Pasko's parents, who are in their early 70s, are staying in Ukraine's capital Kyiv, despite his urges to flee.
Although he's worried about them, Pasko says it gives his family hope to see the solidarity shown across the world.
"It's very important for Ukrainians in Ukraine to know that all over the world, Ukrainians support them," he said.
But Pasko's not just showing symbolic support for his home country.
"The whole nation outside the borders of Ukraine somehow is involved. Every single person is doing something, right? Whether they're donating or gathering donations or helping their family and supporting their friends. Everybody is doing something," he said.
Shcherbukha, clad in blue and yellow, also sat at a booth collecting donations and supplies .
"It's really hard to be not with them right now and of course we try to do anything we can," he said.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress' Manitoba Provincial Council, which hosted the rally, is encouraging people in the province to consider donating to registered charities who are supporting people affected by the fighting.
Alexandra Shkandrij helped organize the rally to help Manitoba's Ukrainian community grapple with what's transpired.
"We're all going through this together and being able to be here to talk to one another and to look each other in the eye, I think is a really wonderful experience in the sense of it shows that we're not alone," she said.
The rally in Winnipeg is the latest among many rallies and events held in solidarity in recent days.
The day prior, hundreds gathered in Brandon, Man., to march from the university to city hall, where they raised the Ukrainian flag and sang the national anthem.
Support for kids
School psychologists Ivanna Lukie and Jordie Skinner were present at the rally to help children process what Lukie called their "big feelings."
Kids could get their face painted with the Ukrainian flag, and colour on worksheets with simple facts explaining what's happening in Ukraine.
Lukie wants to help parents figure out how to talk to their kids about what's going on, especially because some of the children at the rally have direct family members under siege.
"It's very real for them. Some immigrated at least as recently as three weeks ago, and so they are very much in contact with their relatives there," she said.
A Ukrainian herself, Lukie felt it was important to be present at the rally to help parents and kids who are processing.
"Just giving them a chance to be kids and to play and to ask questions."
For parents, Lukie also had some advice: "saving space for those questions, trying to be honest with what's going on right now and just trying to keep a routine at home as much as possible when you can."
With files from Marina von Stackelberg