It is said that wars bring out the best and the worst in people, and the current brutal war in Ukraine is no exception. The Russians have certainly demonstrated the worst aspects of humanity in their barbaric behaviour during the past three months of unbridled death and destruction on the territory of Ukraine. Their complete disregard for any kind of civilized norms and their utter contempt for the lives of innocent civilians is beyond the pale.
Wherever they have gone, they have engaged in an orgy of death, destruction, looting, rape, torture and murder on an unprecedented scale. This has been accompanied by a torrent of propaganda, lies and official vitriol that beggars any credulity and belief in the face of overwhelming journalistic reporting of their genocidal behaviour. The Russians have sunk to a new low in the annals of naked aggression by one nation on another. What is worse is reports that according to recent polls, the overwhelming majority of ordinary Russians support this despicable behaviour by Putin and his minions in his war on the Ukrainian people. They have been conditioned by centuries of tyranny, oppression and brainwashing into believing that anything their leaders do is right and necessary, and people like Ukrainians have no right to exist except under a Russian yoke.
And yet, the war has also shown the opposite side of human nature, in the actions of all those countries that have come to the aid of Ukraine in its hour of need. Over 6.7 million Ukrainians have fled the war zones and sought safety in neighbouring counties. No country has done more than Poland which has graciously and generously accepted more than half, or some 3.5 million of these displaced Ukrainians, and is doing an incredible job in providing food, shelter and other vital support services to these unfortunate folk.
I have a good friend who is currently in Warsaw as a volunteer helping those refugees deal with the administrative processes and red tape required to get the special visas to come to this country under the CUAET (Canada Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel) program. She has related to me in great detail the generosity and warmth that the Polish government as well as the Polish people have extended to their Ukrainian brothers and sisters. This is all the more remarkable when one considers that Poland and Ukraine have had a troubled mutual history over the past few centuries and were antagonists until more recent times.
But it is not only Poland that is welcoming Ukrainian refugees. Romania has accepted almost a million, Hungary 671,000, Moldova 477,000 and Slovakia 454,000. As for Canada, it has received applications from 241,000 Ukrainians and approved special visas for 112,000. Approximately 32,000 Ukrainians have already arrived in Canada under the CUAET program. Once in Canada, those Ukrainians are able to get work permits, free health care, financial assistance and other services funded by the government. In addition, the Ukrainian community in Canada through the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has mobilized its resources to help these new Ukrainian arrivals find accommodation, employment, food, clothing and other key support services.
I have gotten involved with this relief effort in the city of Oshawa where I live, and I have been immeasurably impressed with the efforts of not only the volunteers from the Ukrainian community here, but also the broader public in addressing the humanitarian needs that this war has caused. People have generously offered to host arriving refugees and donated their time, clothing, furniture, basic necessities of life, and most importantly financial aid in support of the local relief efforts.
As an example, some weeks ago, the German community’s Club Loreley here in Oshawa organized a fundraiser that resulted in a $4,100 donation to the Durham Ukrainian Relief Fund (DURF). Last night, I attended another fundraiser organized by the local Royal Canadian Legion Branch which resulted in another donation of $20,000 to DURF.
All this is a reflection of the kindness and generosity of Canadians as a whole, who demonstrate their adherence to the essential biblical principle of “I am my brother’s keeper”. Canada is composed of an incredible diversity of ethnicities, many of whose ancestors fled to Canada from circumstances similar to what is now currently happening in Ukraine. It is a credit to the Canadian ethos, that we welcome these latest victims of naked imperialistic aggression with open arms. It is who we are.