Community Response to the Struggle in Ukraine

Below is a report on the efforts of Manitoba’s Ukrainian Canadian community in the past year in providing humanitrarian support firstly for victims of the repression of the Maidan Revolution of Dignity and latterly for the soldiers and civilians suffering because of the pro-Russian terrorists in Eastern Ukraine. Thanks to Myroslava Pidhirnyj for preparing this report.

For many Ukrainians, the past year has been a time of heightened patriotic sentiments.  Though Ukraine won the revolution of human dignity and succeeded in ridding itself of Victor Yanukovich, it was a bitter sweet victory which came at the expense of many Ukrainians (and their friends) who perished on the Maidan and in its aftermath.  To give you a picture of the magnitude of the crisis, to date almost 1400 soldiers and volunteers have been killed and more than 3900 wounded.  The civilian count is approximately 2350 killed and almost 10,000 wounded.  Some 363 participants of the Revolution of Dignity & 36 ATO soldiers have been treated abroad.  More than 600,000 Internally Displaced Persons have been registered, and it is estimated that another 400,000-500,000 have left Ukraine altogether, many to Western Europe, most eastward to Russia.

The Euromaidan Canada movement originated in Toronto, not long after students in Kyiv started to assemble on the Maidan. An adhoc committee was formed and planning around awareness raising events began. The movement quickly spread to other cities, including Winnipeg.  As the situation in Ukraine developed, the movement grew and Euromaidan became a standing committee of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.  Today events, awareness campaigns and information sessions, as well as fundraising efforts are being organized by Euromaidan committees across Canada in the name of the UCC.

In Winnipeg, the Euromaidan Committee is comprised of interested community members working under the auspices of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Manitoba Provincial Council (UCC-MPC) to raise awareness about what is happening in Ukraine, to lobby the government and to carry out fundraising activities in support of humanitarian aid for those killed and wounded in Ukraine and to determine how best to allocate funds raised.  In recent months, particular emphasis has been on providing humanitarian aid and assistance to Ukraine’s defenders in the face of Russian-backed aggression.

Many Canadians of Ukrainian descent have also united as the result of the Euromaidan protests. Headed by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Winnipeg’s Ukrainian community has held several protests, rallies and demonstrations over the past year.

From its inception, the Winnipeg Committee determined that it would control how much and to whom the funds would flow.  Members have been in regular contact with officials of Ukraine’s Ministry of Health and have received lists of seriously wounded individuals, along with information regarding their medical conditions.  Members themselves have spoken to family members, doctors and medical facilities to verify and update the information.

The Ukrainian community in Manitoba and the Province of Manitoba have responded generously, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to assist the families of the ‘Heavenly Hundred’, the heroes who presided on the Maidan in Kyiv and in other parts of Ukraine, as well as for those who were seriously wounded in the subsequent battles in Eastern Ukraine.

Since last spring , in the aftermath of Russian-backed separatist fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Eastern Ukraine and a de facto Russian-led invasion, fundraising efforts have shifted to the provision of assistance to Ukrainian troops and volunteer batallions in the form of medical aid and winter clothing and boots.

While in Ukraine during the parliamentary elections this past October, several members of the UCC-MPC Board (including its president – Oksana Bondarchuk, Nick Krawets, Alexandra Shkandrij and myself, as well as MLA Ron Schuller) visited the Central Military hospital in Kyiv.  There, we had the opportunity to meet at length with the Chief Surgeon and other medical doctors, to view the facility and to interact with some of the wounded soldiers.

The main wing of the hospital is several hundred years old and it shows.  It was as if we were in a time warp.  We were struck by the antiquated premises and the age of hospital beds and equipment.  Coincidently, the Ukrainian chapter of the Knights of Columbus form Winnipeg and Rev. Msgr. Mykhail Buyachok had been there just a week or 10 days earlier and had delivered a shipment of wheelchairs.  But the beds were old and were covered with boards to provide some kind of support and other equipment that we take for granted was scarce or non-existent. Since then, at our request, the doctors provided us with a list of key medical requirements – top of the list is a retractor system to assist in holding the cavity open during operations.  We are currently trying to determine the cost of such a system and where best to purchase it and would like to send that out early in the new year.

Our Euromaidan Committee is also trying to acquire used hospital beds and other new and or lightly used equipment from organizations such as International Hope Canada Inc., a charitable organization based in Winnipeg that provides pharmaceutical medical supplies and equipment to impoverished countries where such items are in critically short supply. This is achieved through the collection and sharing of redundant but useable items donated by hospitals, nursing homes, other health care facilities and agencies, as well as individuals.  It is our plan to ship acquired equipment to the hospital in a shipping container sometime in the spring.

Now to the question of funds.  To raise funds, several community fundraisers have been held including a kick-off at Institute Prosvita on March 1, 2014 which raised almost $30,000, a blue and yellow ribbon campaign was initiated and donations were solicited at concerts and at Ukrainian Day in the Park.  Several community groups held their own fundraising events (Winnipeg Goldeyes, O. Koshets Choir, Taras Luchak at his Second Last Waltz event in October) and turned their proceeds to UCC-MPC.  Donations requiring income tax receipts were channelled through the national office of the Ukrainian Canadian Social Services or the Canada Ukraine Foundation, while smaller donations went through UCC-MPC accounts and were disbursed directly to identified individuals.

In addition, the Province of Manitoba provided an initial donation of $25,000 and subsequently almost $115,000 through the Manitoba Lotteries and Liquor campaign, all of which has been funnelled through the UCC-MPC.

This report is meant to provide information to the community on what has been raised and how the funds have been allocated.

In total, approximately $55,000 has been flowed directly to some 12 wounded individuals and their families to help pay for much-needed operations and prostheses.  Testimonial letters, photos and videos have been received from many of these individuals, thanking our community for this aid.  These can be viewed at: http://www.uccmb.ca/crisis-in-ukraine/maidan/

Another $19,000 was utilized for purchasing and shipping winter gear to Ukraine’s defence forces. This fall, after considerable due diligence, we located a company in Buffalo NY that could provide us with the best price and ordered approximately $45,000 Cdn. worth of the coagulating agent CELOX.  That order is currently being shipped and should arrive in Ukraine by early January.

Based on US Army research, 15% of combat-related deaths are preventable.  To increase a soldier’s chance of survival, the IFAK or Improved First Aid Kit was developed and, thanks to the Ukrainian World congress, combat lifesaver training is being provided to improve self-care and buddy-care prior to delivery to a field hospital.  The cost of the IFAK is approximately $100 per kit.  We have therefore forwarded another $20,000 in support of the Ukrainian World Congress’s Patriot Defence project and have also begun a Christmas campaign to encourage families to donate towards the purchase of a kit in the name of a family member or a friend in lieu of purchasing them a gift.  Cheques can be sent to the UCC-MPC at 777 Pritchard Avenue, Winnipeg MB R2X 0E8.

In summary, of the $180,000+ collected to date by UCC-MPC, approximately $139,000 has been expended and a little more than $40,000 remains in a separately maintained account to enable us to undertake some of the other initiatives mentioned.

The Euromaidan Committee and the UCC-MPC call on all of you to continue supporting the struggle – a struggle that will likely continue over a long period of time. Ukraine still needs a lot of support on a number of fronts due to the war with the Russian aggressor.  Putin isn’t leaving Crimea any time soon, and his interests in Ukraine continue to grow.  Much remains to be done.  Together, we have been successful in working with the three levels of government and have been able to raise and lever essential funds.  We need to continue our valuable work for the good of our community and the good of Ukraine.

 

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