STRATFORD – The Multicultural Association of Perth Huron (MAPH) has kicked off their fundraising efforts to support Ukrainian refugees who will soon be arriving in Perth and Huron Counties with a dinner at Revival House in Stratford on March 10.
Over 50 supporters came out on short notice for the Ukrainian-inspired buffet.
Pastor Jason Richards from St Marys United Church opened the meal with a prayer and some thoughts on the war devastating Ukraine.
“For the past few weeks, we have been glued to the news and the television,” he said. “It has brought sorrow to our hearts to see what is happening to our brothers and sister in Ukraine. This unprovoked attack has brought so much sorrow and devastation that we hoped we wouldn’t see in this generation. We come together today to support the endeavours of the MAPH and their work with Ukrainian refugees coming into our home. … We ask for peace to wash over Ukraine and that the fighting ceases, that the sorrows will cease, that the mothers and children coming here can be reunited with the rest of their families.”
Later in the evening, Revival House owner Rob Wigan reluctantly shared that the MAPH guest speaker had cancelled.
“Her mother, who was invited to come to Canada with her, stayed back in Ukraine as she is a nurse, and the hospital that she works in was attacked,” he said. “Her mother is in critical care now. So, Katya is going to be flying to Poland to see her mother.”
Wigan said the news is a tangible reminder of the events in the world right now.
“This is all happening while we’re sitting here,” he said. “So, if we can keep her in our prayers. That is just another reminder: we can do a lot as Canadians to help. Sorry I had to be the bearer of that message. It’s very sad news, but I think we are all here for a greater cause, so I thank you all.”
MAPH Founder and Executive Director Dr. Gezahgn Wordofa said Katya would have spoken about Ukrainian culture and food. Instead, he pointed out how lucky he believes people are to live in Canada. He pointed to the Ukrainian flag which had been hung in the restaurant.
“People are fighting for their flag,” he said. “(Ukrainians) are fighting for that flag … for their freedom. Katya’s mom decided to help, and then she was shot … Every single day we see this happening in Ukraine … It’s very tough for me to see … Ukraine, a nice country with good people.”
Pastor Richards led another prayer.
“The reality of what is happening in Ukraine, God, just hit pretty close to home,” he said. “We’ve all come here in support of this wonderful endeavour for people coming as refugees from Ukraine to Canada. Many Ukrainians over the years have come to Canada.”
He noted that his roots are from Saskatchewan, where large Ukrainian communities are.
“God, in our hearts, our prayers, our thoughts, our minds are with this relative in Ukraine, we pray that she will be well,” he said, “That she will be able to recover, and this family will be reunited at home in Ukraine or Canada. God, we pray this with all our strength, and we ask for peace to wash over this area. God, we pray for peace. We can’t stop praying for it. This is gut-wrenching for all who are experiencing it.”
MAPH Volunteer Tanis Vandermolen did not expect to be a speaker at the dinner, but she stepped into the role.
“I also wasn’t expecting that when I move to Ukraine in 2006 that I would find myself here in Stratford,” she said. “I will be a little bit emotional … Canada, as you know, has a long history with Ukraine. Almost 1.4 million Ukrainian Canadians live in this country. A large part of the settlement of prairie provinces is due to Ukrainians coming to Canada.”
Vandermolen pointed out that Ukraine has been fighting for its freedom for quite a long time.
“Canada was the first country to support Ukraine when they declared independence in 1991,” she said.
She noted the Orange Revolution, protests, and political events in Ukraine from late November 2004 to January 2005, in the immediate aftermath of the run-off vote of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, which was claimed to be marred by massive corruption, voter intimidation and electoral fraud. Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, was the focal point of the movement’s campaign of civil resistance, with thousands of protesters demonstrating daily. National acts of civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes organized by the opposition movement highlighted the revolution.
The protests were prompted by reports from several domestic and foreign election monitors and the widespread public perception of the run-off vote of November 21, 2004, between leading candidates Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych were rigged by the authorities in favour of the latter. The nationwide protests succeeded when the results of the original run-off were annulled, and Ukraine’s Supreme Court ordered a revote for December 26, 2004. Under intense scrutiny by domestic and international observers, the second run-off was declared “free and fair.” The results showed a clear victory for Yushchenko, who received about 52 percent of the vote, compared to Yanukovych’s 45 percent. Yushchenko was declared the official winner, and with his inauguration on January 23, 2005, in Kyiv, the Orange Revolution ended. The Orange Revolution had a negative connotation among pro-government circles in Belarus and Russia in the following years.
Vandermolen also mentioned the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the eight years of unrest in the east of Ukraine that followed, leading up to the recent invasion two weeks ago and the resulting Russian-Ukraine War.
“Thank you, everyone, for supporting Ukraine,” she said. “I hope that you all continue to keep a prayer in your hearts to pray for Ukraine.”
MAPH will be holding another fundraiser for its support of Ukrainian refugees at The Bruce Hotel in Stratford on March 31.
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