MANITOULIN—Canada has been blessed with a veritable potpourri of cultures through a long history of immigration, and nearly four percent of Canadians have ancestry that traces back to Ukraine, so it’s no surprise that many islanders have family ties to that country.
The Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken the world community, especially as Russian President Vladimir Putin furiously shakes his country’s nuclear saber in order to keep the rest of the world (and especially the European Union) European Union and the NATO alliance) to interfere.
The exhibitor reached out to several Manitoulin District and area residents with ties to Ukraine to get their perspective on what is happening in that country.
Ann Slaght’s parents are from Serafynci, a small town in the Ivano-Fran Kivsk Oblasi region and she still has distant cousins who live in Ukraine. “I am heartbroken and sad,” she said. “My parents would have been devastated by the news we are seeing. They were born in the south west of the country.
Ms Slaght wonders what Ukraine could have done to hurt Russia and might offer ‘nothing!’ Ms. Slaght’s sister, Olga, was born in Austria, and that’s where an interesting piece of the region’s history resides.
“My parents were 17 and 19 when the Germans came knocking on their door and told them to pack their bags,” she said. “They were taken to Austria as labor forces during World War II.” About a decade ago there was a movement to compensate those enslaved by the Nazi cause, but this turned out to be another indignity imposed on survivors and their families.
“We hired a lawyer and collected all the documents to send a claim to Germany,” she said. “It cost us thousands of dollars.” When the check finally arrived, “$371 is all we have.”
The turmoil in this part of the world is one of the reasons his family chose to come to Canada instead of returning to Ukraine after the war. The region being under the domination of the USSR at the time was hardly an incentive either.
As for how she feels, Ms Slaght shared: ‘I’m just numb. I can’t believe something so horrible is happening in our world.
Michael Narozanski’s heritage is Polish, but he has not spoken this language since his youth. He speaks Ukrainian. “The region of Poland where my family is from was under Ukrainian occupation,” he said. “There is such a mix of people in this part of the world from what I know from Russia, Poland and Ukraine. A lot of customs are similar.
Where he grew up in Creighton Mine, the area his family lived in had a large Ukrainian diaspora and he grew up with many Ukrainian Canadian friends.
Mr Narozanski said he was appalled that someone like Russian President Putin could hold the world hostage, “like a bank robber taking the money”.
Father George Gardner’s late wife was of Ukrainian descent, her grandparents had immigrated to Manitoba after World War I where they settled on a farm to grow wheat. “Mary was third generation,” he said. “They lived in Duffin, Manitoba.
Although the couple married in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, his wife had moved away from that faith to identify more as Roman Catholic. “Mary didn’t approve of a lot of things going on in Ukraine,” he said. “She wouldn’t have liked Zelenskyy (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who challenged Moscow and whose candidacy for the North American Treaty Alliance and the European Union helped provide the catalyst [or pretext depending on point of view] for the current Russian invasion of Ukraine).
Father Gardner said he thought his late wife would have had a strong opinion on how the country should react to the Russian invasion. “She would have said ‘surrender, give up, it’s not worth the pain and destruction,'” he said. “Let us surrender and live in peace. »
“You know, Mary knew that the Ukrainians had lived under Russian rule when it was the Soviets,” Fr. Gardner continued. “They were fine then, it was like that before.”
Father Gardner said it was not worth the devastation of war to resist the invasion.
“Let them take over and just live in peace,” he said.
He noted that mothers have an instinct to live in peace, to live in a world where their babies can grow up in safety. The current atmosphere across the world, with the increasingly loud drumbeats of war and the clanking of sabers between nation states, dates back to the days before World War II, the Roman Catholic priest noted. “I’m old enough to remember World War II, we lived through it,” he said. “Today nuclear weapons that could wipe out all of humanity are being prepared. There will be no winners in a war like this. Currently, most nations of the world (including Canada ) have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia, its industries, its economy and its oligarchs, closing their airspace to Russian planes, their ports to Russian ships and stopping the gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, but many countries (including Canada) still accept Russian oil.