Just a month ago, I wrote about the heartache I felt for the citizens of Ottawa who were dealing with the hate and violence demonstrated by some of the “freedom convoy” participants. Little did I know, or did the vast majority of the world know, that in a few short days, we would all be in shock over the devastation being wrought on the citizens of Ukraine.
Yes, there had been a build-up of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border – but Russia stated that it was nothing more than war games. On February 24, 2022, missiles and airstrikes hit Ukraine with Russia claiming that it was a special operation to “denazify” Ukraine. With all of its military might, no doubt Russia believed that this invasion of Ukraine would be deemed a success in just a matter of days. But Putin underestimated the pride and will of the Ukrainian people. Ordinary citizens have aided in the defence of their country by building barriers to stop tanks and using Molotov cocktails as weapons.
The young people of Ukraine, those under the age of 30, have never known life under a communist regime. Just last year, Ukraine celebrated its 30th year of statehood and has won a hard-fought transition to democracy. Their recent ancestors, however, or those who managed to survive, endured the “Holodomor” – Stalin’s literal starvation of the Ukrainian people – a punishment of the majority of Ukrainians who resisted the collectivization of agriculture. The farmers were given outrageous quotas of grain that were to be sent to the Soviet regime. When these quotas could not be met, seed was confiscated and fines were levied on meat and potatoes. These actions have been recognized by Canada and the world as an act of genocide which resulted in the deaths of millions of Ukrainians. In Canada, the fourth Saturday in November is recognized as Holodomor Memorial Day.
On this day in 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, ““In 1932 and 1933, the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin orchestrated a deliberate famine – a genocide against the Ukrainian people – to impose total control over Ukraine, destroy the will of the people, and erase their identity. During this horrific campaign, millions died from starvation, including children, and countless others were either deported, imprisoned, or executed. Despite the brutality of the Holodomor, Ukrainians persevered. The resilience of the Ukrainian people and the survival of their culture, language, and identity is a testament to their courage and strength. After decades of Soviet control and oppression, Ukraine regained its independence in 1991. For far too long, the atrocities of the Holodomor were hidden from the world and outright denied. Today, it falls to each and every one of us to ensure this dark chapter in history is not forgotten, and to continue to defend human rights and democracy when they come under threat.”
And now, world leaders and people in every democratic nation are being asked to do just that. Severe economic sanctions have been imposed on Russia. Countries have closed their airspace to Russian flights. The US and UK are banning Russian oil. Major companies are closing down their operations in Russia. Some of these actions will have a direct impact on the worldwide economy. We’ve already seen gas prices reach unprecedented levels in Canada.
Despite the unconscionable actions of Russian leaders, all that has taken place over these past few weeks has given me a great deal of hope for humanity as a whole. The courage and determination of the Ukrainian people is unlike anything I have seen in my lifetime. I am thunderstruck by the immense response of everyday people who are gathering supplies and raising funds for the people of Ukraine in often the most creative of ways. A true “freedom convoy” of 25 trucks left Ireland this Friday with 500 tonnes of aid for Ukraine.
I don’t have a crystal ball – I don’t know when or how this invasion will end. I do know, however, that the evil of this invasion is being battled by the heart of humanity. I hope and pray that good will be victorious.
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