‘We show our unity’: Ukrainians in Manitoba celebrate Ukraine’s Independence Day

BRANDON –

Manitobans are marking 31 years of Ukrainian independence, along with the six-month anniversary of Russia’s Ukrainian invasion.

Despite the war back home, Ukrainians in Manitoba are finding reason to celebrate the day.

“We go to Slovakia, from there we have a plane to Austria,” says Nazar Palamarchuk, a 17-year-old whose family landed in Brandon after fleeing Ukraine. “From there we went to Toronto, then to Winnipeg, and then we came to Brandon.”

Thousands of Ukrainians began to seek refuge in Canada once Russia’s invasion started.

After being in Brandon for only a month and a half, Palamarchuk says he calls Canada his home.

“I need to live my life in Canada and work here,” he says. “Now I want to study here and after I want to work as a lawyer.”

Yulia Zmerzla, the executive director of the Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural and Education Centre, said this 31st anniversary of Ukrainian independence aligns with the six-month anniversary of the Russian invasion.

“We show our unity, our strengths and pride of being Ukrainian,” Zmerzla said. “Because independence, for me personally, is the possibility to make our own decisions, to speak our own language, to keep our culture and traditions. This is something that identifies you.”

Zmerzla said despite the Russian invasion, Ukraine will always be independent.

“Knowing our country, our people, we will stay and fight till the end. I don’t think this will ever change and especially now we understand that we will need to fight for it until the end.”

Zmerzla said an event Wednesday evening at the Oseredok Centre in Winnipeg marked the anniversary. In Brandon, organizers were also looking to mark the day.

 “This Independence Day is more important than it’s ever been,” says Julia Krykavska, a volunteer with the Ukrainian-Canadian Association Tryzub. The group has been raising money and soliciting donations for Ukrainian refugees since the war began.

“We all now understand how much this independence cost us,” she said. “And we all understand, and that’s important for people to understand as well, what millions and millions of Ukrainians, and not only Ukrainians, are fighting for independence right now.”

An Independence Day celebration is scheduled for August 27th at Brandon’s Ukrainian National Hall, with doors opening at 5 p.m. The event will feature dancing, live music, and traditional Ukrainian food, as well as fundraisers supporting Ukrainians in the city.

“That’s going to be a big tribute to Ukraine and to each Ukrainian here,” says Krykavska. “We’re welcoming everyone and hope it’s going to be a successful event.”

Tickets to the event can be purchased at the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation, Hairistocracy Salon, and Western Nation gas bar.

-with files from CTV’s Maralee Caruso

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