‘Cease the battle’: Guelph residents collect in assist of Ukraine
Guelph’s Market Square was filled with blue and yellow flags on Sunday afternoon, March 6, as a few hundred people gathered to show solidarity with Ukraine at the “Stand with Ukraine Peace Rally.”
In addition to the many Ukrainian flags that were waving, many in the crowd also held homemade signs with messages such as “We stand with Ukraine” and “Stop war, stop Putin.”
There were also signs featuring a more extreme condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, including those that read “PUTIN = HITLER” and “PUTIN IS A TERRORIST.”
In speaking to the crowd, Rev. Andrij Figol, of Holy Protection of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church, thanked the people holding those signs, saying they “declare truth.”
In what was perhaps an allusion to the conflicting messages about the war coming from the Russian president, Figol proclaimed “the truth shall be spoken; truth shall overcome,” receiving cheers from the crowd.
“We stand together against the terror and evil imposed by Putin and his army,” he said. “The world has seen and remembers what fascist terrorism causes and has pledged never again shall we let this happen.”
Guelph’s Mayor Cam Guthrie also spoke, reminding the crowd of the close connections many people in the local community have to this war overseas.
Among those he referenced were a local soccer player who left Guelph to join the fighting in Ukraine and a Russian Canadian who had a relative arrested in Russia for protesting the war.
It was clear though that this crowd, many of whom had no problem singing along with the Ukrainian national anthem, needed no reminders of the local connections to that nation.
But they may have been reassured by Guthrie’s message about refugees.
“We are a community that always welcomes people, and this city is ready to take refugees — yesterday,” he said.
He also urged the community to “dig deep” and make monetary donations to help families in Ukraine.
Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner echoed Guthrie’s words, calling on the community’s support with donations and with refugees.
“I know Guelph will welcome refugees with open arms like we always do,” Schreiner said.
He also urged local people to accept the costs associated with sanctions against Russia.
“If the sanctions are going to hurt Putin, we’re going to have to pay a bit, too,” he said.
In wrapping up the event, rally organizer Mira Zmiyiwsky expressed appreciation for those who have stood in solidarity with Ukraine.
“The outpouring of support has been incredible,” she said.
She urged continued unity with Ukraine, ending the rally with a cries of “slava Ukraini” — translated “glory to Ukraine” and “stop the war,” which were echoed by the crowd.