White Rock and South Surrey residents will have a high-profile opportunity to express their support for the people of Ukraine – this Saturday (April 2) at the waterfront.
The public is invited to join in a ‘Peace Walk for Ukraine’, starting at 10 a.m. at Memorial Park, next to the White Rock Museum and Archives on Marine Drive.
The event is being organized by the Rotary Club of White Rock in collaboration with members of the Vancouver-area Ukrainian community and other supporters, including the City of White Rock, the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce, White Rock BIA, Peninsula Arts and Culture Alliance, Sources Community Resources Society and Moby Dick Restaurant on East Beach.
It’s planned partly as a fundraiser for humanitarian aid to the war-torn country, which has seen devastating impacts on every level – and in virtually every family – since the Russian Federation invaded, just over a month ago.
Attendees are invited to make an in-person donation at the walk, or check media channels for information on donating online, or send a cheque, care of the Rotary Club of White Rock, P.O. Box 75005, Surrey, B.C., V4A6G3.
But the event is also aimed at helping raise awareness of the war’s proportions as a human tragedy, through sharing of up-to-date stories and pictures of the impacts on ordinary families.
“It’s very difficult for people here to understand what is happening and how bad it is,” said Oksana Iermusevych, a member of the Ukrainian community and one of the co-organizers of Saturday’s event.
“There are cities in the eastern part of Ukraine that are 80 to 90 per cent destroyed. Some cities are encircled by the Russians – they don’t have electricity, or a water supply or food. You can’t imagine how they are having to live.”
“It’s awful,” said co-organizer Oleksandra Makogonska, who with husband Yuriy Makogonsky owns Moby Dick Restaurant – which has become a hub of fundraising activity and local support.
She noted that Ukraine is a country of some 46 million people.
“Almost every family, now, has been impacted. Everyone of us has already had friends or family affected. We, ourselves, had a friend who was killed, along with his whole family.”
There are hundreds of stories, she said of people being shot, burned and maimed – and of desperate efforts of adults and children to evacuate areas under fire, in which, sadly, only some survived.
Despite the horror of the situation, it has been heartening to learn that people on the Semiahmoo Peninsula have been touched by the plight of the Ukrainians, Iermusevych said.
In a three-day period over last weekend, an information and fundraising booth set up near White Rock pier received more than $12,000 in donations to support humanitarian aid efforts, she said.
“These were just regular people,” she said. “Some of them donated various amounts of money, while others just hugged us.”
Among others who reached out, Iermusevych said, was city recreation and culture director Eric Stepura, who subsequently suggested to council that the city host a fundraising event – a cause that was ultimately taken up by the White Rock Rotary Club.
White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker told Peace Arch News he feels its vital for people to express their support on a local level by attending the Peace Walk.
“Any community that isn’t concerned about what is happening in Ukraine, and to the people of Ukraine, doesn’t necessarily have a heart,” he said.
“But I know that the people in White Rock and South Surrey have a huge heart. There are a number of organizations that have already jumped in line to help with this, as well as churches and individuals. This could be a first step in continued help for the people of Ukraine, which could include taking refugees.
“We need to keep this on the front burner; we need to say something and stand up for our friends in Ukraine.”
Coun. Anthony Manning, who chaired the organizing committee for the event, said that Canada has the second largest Ukrainian population in the world, outside of Ukraine and Russia.
“The invasion has galvanized the Ukrainian community into raising funds for humanitarian relief.”
Activities during the event will include a silent auction, a children’s craft area, vendors, and traditional food and entertainment at Memorial Park, Manning noted.
Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell is expected to provide an opening blessing for the event, which will also feature a raising of the Ukrainian flag, and performances of the Canadian and Ukrainian national anthems, he added.
The program will also include speeches from members of the Ukrainian community including Ihor Lubomyr Huculak, honorary consul of Ukraine in Vancouver, and Natalia Chorna, a clinical counsellor, who lives in White Rock.
The march will then proceed eastward along the promenade to the East Beach commercial area and then back again.
All proceeds from the silent auction, as well as individual donations, will go directly from the White Rock Rotary Club to Rotary organizations in Ukraine, Manning said.
“They can disperse the money there as they see fit to help relief efforts,” he said.
Those – particularly businesses – who wish to contribute certificates and gift baskets to the silent auction can drop off items at the Moby Dick Restaurant, 15479 Marine Dr. White Rock; or can contact Makogonska at firstname.lastname@example.org