Northerners in Ontario face difficulties connecting with family in Ukraine

Sudbury’s Sonia Peczeniuk says she has been unable to reach extended family members in Ukraine since Russia launched a large-scale invasion on Thursday, and she's not the only northern Ontarian in that situation.

Russian cyberattacks make it hard to make contact in Ukraine, say Canadian family members

A woman waits for a train to try to leave Kyiv on Thursday. Russian troops have launched their anticipated attack on the country. Northern Ontarians are expressing concerns about being able to reach family in Ukraine. (Emilio Morenatti/The Associated Press)

Sudbury's Sonia Peczeniuk says she has been unable to reach extended family members in Ukraine since Russia launched a large-scale invasion on Thursday, and she's not the only northern Ontarian in that situation.

Peczeniuk said her family emigrated to Canada in 1954 and settled in Sudbury. She still has family in Ukraine, but has been unable to reach some of her cousins.

"And part of the reason, I believe, is because Russia has launched one of many cyberattacks on the country," she said. "So internet access is being compromised."

She said one cousin she has tried to reach lives in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

There were reports of explosions in the city on Thursday and that Russian paratroopers had captured the Hostomel airport in the Kyiv region.

Peczeniuk said she was not optimistic about the outcome as Ukraine faces an invasion by air, land and sea.

She said Canada and its Western allies need to take a stronger stance against Russia with stricter sanctions and more defensive weaponry to support Ukraine.

"They [Western leaders] know that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is disingenuous," she said. 

"He has broken every single international agreement. He wants to make his mark in history as restoring, you know, the imperial Russian Empire."

Demonstrators outside the Russian Consulate react to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Christopher Mulligan/CBC)

John Klys, also from Sudbury, said he too has been unable to reach extended family in Ukraine.

"Very difficult," he said. "You can't get through because the airports are closed and the Russian cyber breach is causing problems too."

Klys emigrated to Canada with his mother and brother in 1956, when they fled Eastern Europe to start a better life.

He said Sudbury's Ukrainian community is no longer as closely knit as it once was, but those members he has spoken to feel the same way about the invasion as he does.

"In our hearts, we still feel pain because of the oppression by Putin and his cronies," he said. "They're dangerous, not just to Ukraine, to the whole world."

Her last line to me was, 'God, please pray for us.'- Orest Lawryniw on cousin in Ukraine

Orest Lawryniw of Timmins said while reaching family members in Ukraine hasn't been easy, he was able to speak with one of his cousins on Thursday morning. 

"She said that things are very tense over there," he said.

"Very bad. Her son is in Kyiv and trying to get out of Kyiv to Mukachevo, which is about an hour from the Slovakia border in Western Ukraine. The family's trying to get to Mukachevo and to figure out what they're going to do next."

Lawryniw said his cousin told him she has faced long lineups for gas.

"Her last line to me was, 'God, please pray for us,'" he said.

 Lawryniw said he is worried for his family members and concerned about Putin's ambitions.

"I think that once he's done with Ukraine, he's going to put his eye on Poland, or Czechoslovakia and Hungary," he said. "He wants to get Russia back to the way it was 50 years ago when when it was the Soviet Union."

With files from Sam Juric


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