Guelph marks a year of war in Ukraine with candlelight vigil

To shared

Friday marked 365 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Community members and Ukrainians gathered at Guelph City Hall to observe the occasion.

“I’d like to welcome you all to our vigil to recognize 365 days of war, 365 days of countless lives lost, 365 days of bombed cities, 365 days of displaced and separated families, 365 days of resistance and persistence for the Ukrainians against Russian terror,” said Mira Zmiyiwsky Tersigni, co-chair of the Stand With Ukraine Committee Guelph.

Over 60 people gathered at Market Square huddled together in the cold with their candles burning.

“Tonight, we light a candle. And we share and spread light and love symbolizing unity, solidarity and support. Uniting a strong loving community to show solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people against this heinous war on a peaceful country,” said Tersigni.

With many people from Ukraine in attendance, speaker Nataliia Kuchka, brought perspective with the reality of the situation going on in a war torn country.

She came to Canada with her daughter in June, she left Ukraine two days after the war started and was travelling between other European countries.

She said she didn’t know where to start or where to go, so she spun a globe, the place her finger landed on was Ontario and that is where she ended up.

“And, you know, this word war, I have never perceived so sharply before until the war. I met it face to face when my great granny told me the (scary} stories from the Second World War. I could now feel this deep pain that people went through at that time and when the war started in Ukraine. So that was the time when I recalled all her stories,” said Kuchka.

She said she only analyzed the details of the war when she was fleeing Ukraine. When she came to Canada she was in a state of panic, felt paralyzed and had to make fast decisions, she said.

“I didn’t want my daughter to live in this smelly … stinky, cold basement and I didn’t want her to have this fear to the end of her life,” said Kuchka.

She left her parents and husband in Ukraine. Her husband volunteered to fight in the war because he wanted his family to come back to live in a free country.

“But you know, I don’t complain because I really feel blessed and happy staying safe here under the peaceful sky and not seeing the missiles in the sky, hearing them exploding.

“And you know, another thing that I understood, the big truth that nobody, nobody can take down a woman who is using her worst things that happened in her life as the fuel for her greatest victories,” she said. “This such a woman is just unstoppable. You can strip away everything she has. And she will walk away and go get it again.”

In this year Guelphites have opened up their homes to Ukrainians who have come to Canada with Facebook groups like Hosts & Supporters of Ukrainians in Guelph.

“For those I see started Facebook groups and other groups in town, to consistently try to work to help to bring people together around this. As the mayor it’s just astonishing to me how much great work you’ve done,” said Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie.

Both the Canadian and Ukrainian national anthems were sung. Donations towards the war effort in Ukraine were collected by volunteers.

“We also know that if Russia is successful in Ukraine, Latvia and other neighbours will very probably be next. Latvians know what is happening in Ukraine can change history. It should be noted that Latvia has, per capita, donated more to Ukraine than any other country,” said Arni Mikelsons, speaker and Latvian representative.

Father Andrij Figol from Holy Protection Mother Of God Ukrainian Catholic Church, led the candlelit vigil in prayer and a moment of silence.

“Canada and Guelph have contributed greatly to the fight for freedom and peace by you opening your homes, your schools, your churches, your businesses, and ultimately your hearts,” said Figol.

To shared