With the first Remembrance Day nearing since the official beginning of the war in Ukraine, Ukrainians in the valley are asking others to focus on the future while remembering.
For Slav Pylypchuk, a Ukrainian who now lives in the Comox Valley, his thoughts are on his extended family and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
“Honestly, there’s a lot of thoughts and feelings going through my mind,” said Pylypchuk. “It’s not the first [time] since they attacked us and invaded in 2014 in Crimea.”
For Stefan Szkwarek, a Canadian Forces veteran with Ukrainian heritage, the day brings back memories from being a child and learning about Ukrainian history.
“We always definitely took a moment of silence and a moment of reflection, but our reflection based on family history was very much about how Ukrainian people died in the Second World War and other wars too,” said Szkwarek.
“Now it’s much more real and it certainly makes you feel very grateful that you’re not in a conflict zone and not in harm’s way.”
Pylypchuk says those in Ukraine are the heroes of our time, doing the same things as those in the first and second world wars. He also says it focuses on the importance of the statement “Lest we Forget.”
“We just don’t have that privilege to forget what our grandparents did and went through and sacrificed and paid for democracy and all the principals and morals that we cherish so much,” said Pylypchuk.
Szkwarek adds Russia’s targeting of Ukraine’s basic amenities puts into perspective how fortunate the western hemisphere is.
Both Pylypchuk and Swkwarek say that we need to look to the future and work to prevent these conflicts.
“We as a society should be doing better to bring that world and society into that better place that we are in now,” said Pylypchuk. “So together, work day to day, hand in hand and keep working for a better future.”
Szkwarek adds that while nobody wants war, especially those in uniform, we need to stand up for others as one the gatekeepers of democracy.
“There are situations in life like we’re seeing now, where there are bullies in the world and they need to be confronted,” said Szkwarek. “It’s to preserve our freedoms, it’s to preserve our ability to live in a free and liberal society.
“As much as no one wants war, some of them are inevitable and this is one of them. If we don’t win this, Ukraine as a state will be extinguished and Ukrainian identity will again be thrown to the four corners of the earth.”
Pylypchuk adds the world economy will suffer if Ukraine is lost and if the bully is not confronted, they will continue to harm.
Heading into Remembrance Day, Pylypchuk asks others to educate themselves on Ukrainian history. Szkwarek adds that as a society, we have fought battles like these before.