Ukrainians on P.E.I. worry for family as threats of Russia invading Ukraine loom

·3 min read
Elina Lialiuk, left, and Yuliya Rashchupkina are worried for their respective families in Ukraine. (Submitted  - image credit)
Elina Lialiuk, left, and Yuliya Rashchupkina are worried for their respective families in Ukraine. (Submitted - image credit)

As tension between Russia and Ukraine escalates, some Ukranians on Prince Edward Island are becoming increasingly worried about loved ones in their nation of origin.

Russia and Ukraine have had conflict for years, recently once again following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and as pro-Russian separatist groups rise in parts of Ukraine.

However, this year the threat of a Russian invasion to Ukraine seems more imminent. Western military experts estimate there are already as many as 127,000 Russian troops near the Ukraine border and tens of thousand more taking up positions inside Belarus, within 200 kilometers of Kyiv.

Elina Lialiuk, who moved from Lviv, Ukraine, in 2019 and now lives in Stratford said recent tensions are more worrying than ever to her. She left Ukraine due to the ongoing conflict with Russia, she said.

"The probability of war is bigger now because [historically] the troops were concentrated in the eastern part of Ukraine," Lialiuk said.

Submitted by Elina Lialiuk
Submitted by Elina Lialiuk

Although, now Russia has received a pledge of support from Belarus, a country which borders the northwest of Ukraine.

"The tension in the west of Ukraine is not that big as it is in the east, but still taking into account that Belarus supports Putin, they can come from the west as well," Lialiuk said.

"When I saw the news of tensions escalating, I was really worried because my parents live in the west of Ukraine. Taking into account that everything is happening [amid] the coronavirus only worsens the situation."

If it were up to her, Lialiuk said she would relocate all of her family to Canada.

"Being here and having a family over there is really hard, it's hard psychologically," she said. "I would bring them here, but it's not that easy — because the process of getting visa, etc, is really time-consuming and so complicated."

Canada withdrawing diplomatic families

On Tuesday, the Canadian government announced that it is withdrawing the families of diplomatic staff in Ukraine, following fears of a Russian invasion.

Submitted by Yuliya Rashchupkina
Submitted by Yuliya Rashchupkina

Yuliya Rashchupkina, an assistant professor of political science at UPEI, said Canada's decision was reasonable; however, it raises tensions for families in Ukraine.

"It kind of causes some despair among local people. People are becoming more worried if western powers are evacuating the families of diplomats," Rashchupkina said.

She is originally from Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine — which she left 12 years ago. She worries for the family she still has there.

"I have daily conversations with my family. Two of my aunts live in a Russian-backed separatists area," she said.

"My mom and my brother live in the area which is close to the separation line, the area controlled by Russian-backed separatists."

The city of Luhansk is located in the self declared Luhansk People's Republic, which is dominated by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Rashchupkina said despite the ceasefire that was agreed between the Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists following the annexation of Crimea in 2014, there have been reports of aggression and violence in eastern Ukraine

She hopes the current tension between Ukraine and Russia ease soon, but she is pessimistic about an end to the long-term conflict.

"I hope the conflict won't escalate any further. It is already at a very critical point and I hope that diplomats and politicians will find a peaceful solution," Rashchupkina said.

"I do know Ukraine will face the threat of Russian invasion, or having Russian forces along its borders for many years to come."

AP
AP

According to Statistics Canada's 2016 census, Canada is home to at least 1.3 million people of Ukrainian origin. At least 930 are in Prince Edward Island.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress, based in Ottawa, has asked Ukrainians in Canada to write letters to MPs in their province, asking for Canada to show support for Ukraine.

"Hopefully the world will support us and Canada supports us," Elina Lialiuk said

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