‘It’s not just about Russia and Ukraine. It’s about freedom’: Vancouver woman aims to educate on Ukraine invasion

To Vancouver’s Michelle Petrusevich, the scenes of fire and devastation look like something out of a Hollywood war movie.

In reality, they are the images sent to her by her family in eastern Ukraine, where the Russian invasion is intensifying.

“At first I was just completely shell-shocked. Just disbelief. This is a nightmare,” Petrusevich said, referring to when the war first broke out.

Now, her goal is to raise awareness.

She says her nephew cannot return to his home after his city, Kharkiv, and even his apartment building, came under attack. Fortunately, he was visiting family in another community when it happened.

But Petrusevich said even where her relatives are now, the war is close by.

“He said, ‘I’m going to bed, but I can hear the shells flying over my head and I hope I can get some sleep,’” she explained. “Both of my nephews there are of a conscription age, so they can’t leave and I don’t think they would want to leave.”

Petrusevich, who grew up under the oppression of the former Soviet Union, left as a teenager for a new life in Canada.

“I am lucky enough to be here where we have the freedom, where I have the freedom to speak to you about what’s happening and not being afraid. I grew up in a place where I couldn’t do that,” she said.

Her Vancouver church, Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedralis holding special prayer services.

But she also wants to raise awareness about what is happening in her homeland. So she contacted some moms at her kids’ schools about how they might show support.

“(We) reached out to the school administration and asked them what can we do, and both schools will have a blue and yellow day where all the kids can wear it and they’ll talk about it,” she explained.

She’d like to see every school in BC do the same.

“How can we educate the kids about this because we can’t just ignore it. There’s a bigger issue at stake here. It’s not just about Russia and Ukraine. It’s about freedom,” said Petrusevich.

She’s encouraging BC residents to donate to legitimate charities.

She’s also reminding people to be supportive of those with ties to Ukraine.

“It’s a difficult time for everybody from the former Soviet Union,” she said. “Talk to them and support them because they are seeing and experiencing it and it’s really hard for them.”

In addition, she’s started to social media page where people can get more information.

Petrusevich told CTV News that her family in Ukraine has been encouraged by the support the country has already received from Canadians and world leaders.

As for herself, she said there have been many tears.

“I have good days and bad days, good moments and bad moments,” she said.

While she is worried about her family, she is also trying to spread awareness about a country fighting for independence.

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