Ukrainian Atlantic Canadians brace for possible conflict in home country | The Canadian News

Ukrainian Atlantic Canadians are holding out hope that war can be avoided between Russia and their home country.

But they are concerned for the well-being of family and friends still in Ukraine.

Lena Biryukova moved to Saint John from Ukraine in 2006 with her husband and son.

Her brother, Anatoliy, and his family are in Ukraine.

READ MORE: NATO wants to pull Ukraine into Alliance, Russia’s Lavrov says

Biryukova said she also has friends in Donbas – the heart of the conflict. She said they’re preparing to relocate to a summer home in a rural community away from potential fighting.

“So they (are) thinking to move over there really quickly if it will be war,” she said.

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Biryukova said a few people have been dying daily since the conflict began, with Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.

An estimated 100,000 Russian troops are believed to be near the border with Ukraine.

Biryukova said there were fears they could invade anytime because of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desire to “recreate the Soviet Union,” of which Ukraine was a part until it broke apart thirty years ago.

Viktoriia Varfolomiieva moved to Moncton from Ukraine in November 2020 to study information technology at New Brunswick Community College.

She said her husband is with her in Canada, while her parents and other relatives are in western Ukraine, opposite the high-tension area.

Varfolomiieva said she does not believe Russia will invade Ukraine because it would be costly for international relations with countries like Canada, the United States and others who oppose the conflict.

Still, she said the possibility is frightening.

“We do not know what can happen next and it is terrifying to us,” Varfolomiieva said. “It’s scary to have parents back in Ukraine and never know if we’ll ever see them again, to be honest.”

READ MORE: Putin now has ‘capability’ to seize parts of Ukraine, US says

Ottawa is keeping a close eye on the conflict.

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Canada has extended a training mission in Ukraine for three years and is adding 60 Canadian Forces members to the roughly 200 on the ground there.

It’s also sending equipment, including technology to help prevent cyberattacks.

The Ukranian Canadian Congress is holding rallies across the country regularly, including one in the Halifax area last weekend.

UCC Nova Scotia President Andre Mereshchuk said the demonstrations are a show of solidarity with Ukrainians who just want to live their lives back home.

“To support Ukrainians and (offer) knowledge to Canadians about this war,” he said.

“It’s not fair if they will be dying in someone’s ambitious war,” Biryukova said, referring to Putin.

Biryukova and Varfolomiieva believe there is enough pressure from NATO countries to keep Russia at bay.

Mereshchuk said Ukraine’s army is also much better prepared to defend itself than it was in Crimea eight years ago.

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