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Ukrainian students in Canada are showing our government the power that their voices have

By Danya Pankiw

We thought the Soviet Union was gone, but Putin never did. 

Three days before the invasion on February 21, 2022, Putin stated that “Modern Ukraine is entirely a product of Russia: of bolshevik, communist Russia”. We see time and time again that Putin is a narcissist who operates from a place devoid of empathy. We see this with each claim that Ukraine is Russia, and with each innocent civilian that he kills. Yet, we all know that the city of Kyiv was formed in the year 482, among one of the oldest in Europe, and Moscow was established only in 1147. It is as simple as this. Kyiv is 665 years older than Moscow.  

Ukrainians have been warning the West that the deranged man in the Kremlin is a war criminal, and the world is only now slowly starting to learn that. For centuries, Ukraine has fought for its independence while the world found strength in its strides of ignorance. 

Ukrainians were never Russian, Ukrainians are not Russian, and Ukrainians will never be Russian, Ukrainians are Ukrainian. 

Now, in the 21st century, we find ourselves facing the largest war in Europe since the second world war. This is no longer just an artillery battle, but a battle against the digital iron curtain. Ukrainians are facing a second genocide, and as Ukrainians stare death straight in the face, the rest of the world hides behind closed doors.

The chilling words of George Orwell predicted today’s history. The nine words that impeccably describe the Russian war machine. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. 

Our friends, family, and all beloved Ukrainians continue to show resolve in the face of a terrorist. They continue to stand up for our culture, language, religion, and freedom. This is a blatant attack on our identity. Although Ukrainians have inspired the world and shown everyone the deep patriotism that runs in our blood, Ukrainians know they are fighting this battle alone. 

Almost 3.5 million displaced persons have fled Ukraine and 6.48 million are internally displaced in the country. This is one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world. 

On March 15, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy virtually met the Canadian Government with a historic address in the House of Commons. While standing in the House of Commons I was overcome with emotions. President Zelenskyy was honored with a 5 minute standing ovation, and the House was overcome by chants of Slava Ukraini. President Zelenskyy stated “Can you imagine the famous CN Tower being hit by Russian bombs… We are asking for justice, for real support, which will help us to prevail… Please understand and close our airspace from Russian missiles and Russian aircrafts.” What was the Canadian Government’s response to this: to place 15 more sanctions on Russia. Ultimately, this moment made it bitterly clear that Zelenskyy’s words are not being heard by the Canadian Government and the rest of the world.

Albert Einstein said it best “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Over the past three weeks, the West has failed to help Ukraine. If NATO can’t step up and close Ukraine’s sky, it should at least close the sky over the humanitarian corridors, to save the innocent lives of children and civilians. 

Ukrainian students here in Canada and around the world are showing our governments the power that their voices and actions have. Students in Canada have mobilized and are working to create funds for Ukrainian International students, are the voices at each school campus who are advocating for Ukraine and contributing greatly to humanitarian aid, and are coming together to support one another during this challenging time. In Lviv, Ukrainian University students are creating apps which send anti-war messages to people living in Russia. In the UK, students are volunteering to gather intelligence information online to help authenticate videos and websites that can be deemed as possible war crimes. This information is being relayed to the International Criminal Court in building a case against the war criminal in the Kremlin. These brilliant ideas are coming from the ingenious minds of students.

Each one of you are the future leaders of tomorrow. Our government and world leaders are turning to you for ideas, and are hearing your voices. We are the change, and we will continue being the change. 

On March 17 I received this message from a friend in Kyiv. “At this time Ukrainians need help. Believe me, we went through hell… when bombs hail down on you for 10 days, when children die and houses collapse, when you are left with nothing at once…., and you stay alive – you appreciate every moment of life and try to help everyone who needs [it].” 

As you wake up each morning in peace, under a roof with a warm meal, think about how you can continue to push your government to do more. If we want Ukraine to survive, if we want the beautiful culture and identity of our people to prevail, we must all come together and pressure our world leaders and NATO to close the sky over Ukraine. This message is to NATO: if you aren’t going to close the sky over Ukraine, the least you can do is equip Ukraine with air defense weapons, “[…] and we will do the rest”, Dmytro Kuleba, Foreign Minister of Ukraine.