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Prince Albert residents stand with Ukraine on Independence Day

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Prince Albert residents stand with Ukraine on Independence Day
Prince Albert residents gather in Memorial Square outside City Hall to celebrate Ukraine Independence Day on Aug. 24, 2022. – Herald file photo

Prince Albert has already been showing support to Ukraine, flying the nation’s blue and yellow flag beside the Saskatchewan, Prince Albert, and Canadian flags in Memorial Square.

That’s where residents of Ukrainian descent gathered with friends and supporters on Wednesday to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the country’s independence.

With Russian troops still waging war in Ukraine, speakers and attendees at Wednesday’s gathering felt it was more important than ever to celebrate independence.

“When the unjustified immoral attack by Putin ends, then we’ll be able to lower the flag,” city councillor Dennis Ogrodnik said.

“It’s showing the support of the citizens of Prince Albert, to Ukraine that we stand with you in this unexpected, crazy war that Putin has waged on a beautiful, lovely country.”

Alana Ross, MLA for the Prince Albert Northcote riding, acknowledged the history between Ukraine and Saskatchewan.

“Saskatchewan has always held such a unique connection to Ukraine. [The Ukrainian] community has made a tremendous contribution to the growth and culture of our province. 

“Canada was the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence, and Saskatchewan was the first province to sign an agreement with the Government of Ukraine.”

At the time between September of 1891 to August 1914, Ukrainians were being persecuted due to the difference in religion. However, Saskatchewan made a point of opening their doors to the agriculturally skilled Ukrainians.

Since then, Saskatchewan has signed several agreements with Ukraine to promote educational, cultural, agricultural, and economic collaboration between our countries.

Ross said Russia’s invasion has forced millions to flee Ukraine, and made those agreements more important than ever.

“As this humanitarian crisis continues to grow, we invite all Saskatchewan residents to show support for Ukraine’s people’s rights to live free and in peace in their own land,” Ross said.

“Over the past several months, hundreds of Ukrainian citizens have arrived in Saskatchewan, a journey that took tremendous courage and tremendous strength… Saskatchewan is proud to partner with humanitarian organizations, Open Arms and Solidaire [Network], on this initiative. 

On Aug. 12, Premier Scott Moe signed a memorandum of understanding that will see five humanitarian flights bring Ukrainian citizens from Warsaw to Saskatchewan by the end of March 2023.

“Saskatchewan will always stand with the people of Ukraine,” Ross said.

Taras Kachkowski, a well-known advocate in the community, said Ukrainians are a freedom and peace loving people and want things to stay that way.

On Ukrainian Independence Day, he was thankful for the neighbouring countries who stood with Ukraine in its moment of need.

“Fortunately, many of our allies and neighbours believe that we have that right to exist on our ancestral lands where many of our families are, and we have the right to express that culture in Canada and whatever other locations we find Ukrainians,” Kackkowski said.

“The world has now abandoned the concept of empire and colonialism, except for one neighbour of Ukraine’s.

“Ukraine is saying ‘no more’, and we have the fortunate support of many allied countries,” he added. “We hope to be independent and peaceful when the war ends, hopefully soon.”

Organizers plan to make Ukrainian Independence Day an annual celebration in Prince Albert.