Ukrainian evacuees in Fort McMurray gather to mark war anniversary

Ukrainians sang songs, watched performances, prayed and, most importantly, comforted each other on another tragic anniversary.

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Svitlana Kryvetska and her teenage daughter have settled in Fort McMurray, but their hearts and minds are never far from Ukraine. It is there that Kryvetska’s husband and son remain, two years after Russia’s invasion.

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“It’s very hard to start a new day and I don’t know what is waiting for me. It’s hard,” said Kryvetska, who was forced to leave her home city of Odessa at the start of the invasion. “Only half of me is here. The other half of me is still in Ukraine.”

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Kryvetska and dozens of other Ukrainian newcomers gathered at the community hall for the Meadow Creek Village housing complex on Feb. 24, the second anniversary of the invasion. They sang songs, watched cultural performances and prayed. Most importantly, they were together to comfort each other on another tragic anniversary.

About 270 Ukrainians have settled in Fort McMurray since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Alberta has welcomed more than 51,000 Ukrainian evacuees into 206 communities. A locally-run citizen’s committee called Fort McMurray stands with Ukraine helps newcomers with their resumes and job interviews, find housing and English-language lessons, and help with any other needs.

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Sergii Melnikov, who helped organize the ceremony, believes more Ukrainians from other parts of Alberta will move to Fort McMurray because the region is part of the Rural Renewal Stream. The program helps recruit foreign nationals to live, work and settle in rural communities.

Melnikov said AlumaSafway recently hired 10 Ukrainian newcomers. He urged other employers to give Ukrainians a chance and be patient with newcomers.

“Everyone is looking for opportunities to contribute in Canada,” he said, pointing out that children at the gathering sang the anthems of Canada and Ukraine. “They are singing the national anthem of Canada like Canadians. They will have the Canadian mindset of respect, tolerance and dignity in every single person.”

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Ukrainians gather at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

Orysia Boychuk, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ branch in Alberta, said in a September interview that arranging emotional and mental health supports has been difficult because few specialists are familiar with Ukrainian language and culture.

But the trauma of leaving a war zone concerns Melnikov. He said a young girl who recently arrived with her family asked her grandmother if they still needed to hide in the washroom from soldiers or rockets.

“The girl asked should we hide here or can we stay in the bed all night?” said Melnikov.

Alberta pledges help for Ukraine’s energy sector

Alberta Energy Minister Brian Jean said in a press release that Alberta will help Ukraine rebuild the country’s energy infrastructure. A memorandum of understanding is expected to be signed soon between Jean and his Ukrainian counterpart.

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Laila Goodridge, Conservative MP for Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, said she recently gifted art and letters from local Ukrainians to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his visit last year. They were delivered to Ukrainian soldiers.

People nodded in agreement as Goodridge called for countries like Canada to stop Russian oil and gas exports into Europe, which she said is funding Russia’s war.

“That is one of the things that I will continue writing for,” Goodridge said at the ceremony.

Despite the challenges, everyone said Ukrainians are settling well into the community. Kryvetska and her daughter have made friends. Kryvetska is also employed and recently fundraised for a new truck for her husband’s army regiment. She likes that most Ukrainians have settled in the same neighbourhood.

“Soon it will be a Ukrainian area,” she joked.

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Ukrainians sing Ukraine’s anthem at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Ukrainians sing Ukraine’s anthem at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A vehicle supporting Ukraine outside the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A vehicle supporting Ukraine outside the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A sign outside the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A sign outside the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Ukrainian children read poems and songs at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Ukrainian children read poems and songs at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Ukrainian children read poems at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Ukrainian children read poems at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Ukrainian children read poems at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Ukrainian children read poems at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Ukrainian children read poems at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Ukrainian children read poems at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Ukrainian children read poems at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Ukrainian children read poems at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
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Ukrainian children sing the anthems of Canada and Ukraine at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
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Ukrainians applaud after hearing songs at the community hall of the Meadow Creek Village housing complex to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

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