Today is Ukrainian Independence Day commemorating 31 years ago when Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union. Today also marks six months since Russia invaded Ukraine.
This day has added significance for those who fled the war.
Tatiana Koeptes moved to Kelowna four months ago with her two kids. She says since she got here, the community has been very helpful to her and her family and she has been embracing Canadian culture. But that doesn’t stop her from thinking about her home country.
“Every day, every moment, every time we are thinking about Ukraine because our life in Ukraine was very good and Ukraine last year was very developed,” said Koeptes.
Koeptes has been taking English classes and helping other Ukrainians who have come to Canada. She says she couldn’t imagine still being in Ukraine with her kids.
“Families with small kids, I can’t right now. It’s impossible because the schools are closed and the danger is everywhere in West Ukraine or East Ukraine. It’s impossible.”
Kelowna’s Ukrainian community is celebrating independence day, however, this year’s celebrations are very different. The war has redefined the meaning of independence for Ukrainians.
“Every Ukrainian is against it and many Ukrainians are ready to give their life to be independent. That’s both a celebration and a sombre moment,” said Denys Storozhuk, the president of Kelowna Stands with Ukraine, which has helped over 200 Ukrainians move to the Okanagan.
“Probably similar amount could arrive by the end of the year, they pre-register with us. The reception was great. We have so many locals who came up and offered their accommodation for free for Ukrainians,” said Storozhuk.
Canadians have been supporting Ukraine throughout the war and Koeptses says that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Our Ukrainian troops fight for our independence for our life. We need the support of all the world and we have this support, and I think we will win,” said Koeptes.
Kelowna Stands with Ukraine is continuing the celebration tonight in downtown Kelowna, with the singing of the Ukrainian national anthem and Kelowna’s sails will be lit blue and yellow.