By Mike Anderson
For Oksana Stroganov and her son Nik, watching daily media reports on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is having a traumatic effect.
“It’s like living a nightmare every day,” she said.
Born in Kyiv, Stroganov, a former psychologist at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, emigrated to Canada more than 25 years ago and has lived in Georgina for 21 years.
Still, she has maintained strong ties to her homeland and is proud of her Ukrainian heritage.
So much so that she is quick to correct my mispronunciation of “Kyiv” as “Kiev,” which is derived from the Russian language.
She also made sure her 20-year-old son Nik, born in Canada, spoke Ukrainian from an early age.
While they both praise the bravery that Ukraine’s military has shown, Oksana and Nik are also concerned about the safety of their family and friends in Kyiv, which has seen increased shelling and missile strikes in recent days.
“Thankfully, we can contact my family almost daily,” Nik said.
“However, the shelling is only half the problem; there are food shortages, anxiety, and a general lack of aid for those very ill who cannot go out on the street or even into bomb shelters.”
Oksana is particularly worried about her 87-year-old father.
“When the alarm sounds for civilians to hide in the shelters, he can’t go because he is too weak. Alarms sound several times, day and night. My father and my stepmom can only sit, waiting for their destiny.”
“My heart bleeds for my father and all my relatives and friends.”
Oksana can’t understand how a war like this can occur in Europe after the lessons learned from WWII.
“I feel shocked that now, in the 21st century, such savagery and criminality is still possible,” she said.
“My family lived in a village near Kyiv for centuries. I have a family tree of my ancestors back 300 years. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother in the village. Now Russia is bombing it. One of the rockets exploded at the place my grandmother took us for a trip in my childhood. Children and their parents were killed.”
“We thought we left all that horror with the end of WWII. But now Russia is proclaiming itself a world-saver from Nazis. It has become clear that Moscow did not want to liberate the world from Nazis but wanted to conquer new territories.”
Now that the war has entered the fourth week, Nik is concerned that Russia, stalemated by Ukrainian resistance, may resort to more desperate tactics.
“Putin and his followers are not stopping,” he said
“I am concerned about chemical and nuclear warfare, all of which seem to be imminent unless Russia is shown that their actions cannot go unpunished.”
Oksana also fears a dramatic escalation but wants to see the U.S. and NATO step up their military support for Ukraine and increase sanctions on Russia.
“I believe in a Ukrainian victory, with the help of all countries. Putin wants to erase the Ukrainian nation. The Ukrainians have no choice but to fight.”
However, Nik is less sure of the outcome.
“The Ukrainian people are very good at persevering. If they keep certain Russian weak points under control, they have a good chance of delaying the worst effects of this war. But winning the war is a whole other question, a question that requires foreign nations’ support.”
While a negotiated peace is technically still on the table, they don’t hold out too much hope.
“Talks with Russia will not help; that is always a trap,” Oksana said.
“Negotiations would potentially end the suffering of innocent lives much sooner, but one must consider the potential for long-term political manipulation. Negotiations are only possible once Ukraine has the power to match Russia’s military. Otherwise, there are too many opportunities for undermining,” Nik added.
While both appreciate the support that Canada has given Ukraine so far, pointing out that Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence in 1991, they believe Canada needs to do more.
“Right now, it is important to do everything we can to support and save the Ukrainian people who are innocent and on the defensive. Continuing with fundraising for refugee aid, children’s help, and animal rehabilitation is critical,” Nik said.
“I greatly appreciate all the effort Canada has made. But today, it’s not enough. We cannot sit and watch a European nation being erased. It’s not a movie; this is reality,” Oksana added.
Oksana encourages her neighbours to voice their concerns by writing to MP Scot Davidson and by continuing to donate to Ukraine. She says they can find a template letter to write to local MPs on the Ukrainian Canadian Congress website, https://www.ucc.ca/.
Donations can also be made to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, which has raised $5 million for aid, including food for internally displaced families forced to flee their homes.
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