Roughly two dozen people turned up outside the Elijah Smith Building in downtown Whitehorse on Aug. 24 to mark the 32nd Independence Day of Ukraine. The date, observed as a national holiday in Ukraine, is when the country officially declared independence from the now-defunct Soviet Union.
The Ukraine Independence Day gathering in Whitehorse was organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Association of the Yukon (UCAY), which serves as a voice for the territory’s Ukrainian Canadian community and assists those who have fled Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression to start a new life in the Yukon.
The national anthem of Ukraine was played, and a moment of silence was held to remember those who have fallen in defense of the country. Small Ukranian flags were handed out to attendees.
UCAY secretary Lesia Hnatiw helmed the event, speaking to attendees about Ukrainian history, the impacts of Russian aggression against Ukraine and the Yukon’s support of Ukrainians fleeing the violence in their home country.
“Russia has willfully and brazenly violated all the norms of the civilized world, engaging in the most heinous conduct against Ukraine’s civilian population and its environment,” Hnatiw said. “More than 167,000 displaced Ukrainians have arrived in Canada since the beginning of the war, and many have made Yukon their new home.”
Speaking about the importance of the Independence Day gathering for the Ukrainian diaspora in Whitehorse, Hnatiw told the News that it is an important way to welcome Ukrainian newcomers and recognize what is happening in Ukraine.
“It is our obligation, I feel, to do this, because we have the freedom to mark Ukraine’s independence in a safe place,” Hnatiw said.
Yukon government Minister Nils Clarke was at the event and took the podium to speak to attendees.
“The Yukon has become a place of refuge for Ukrainian families. We are proud to provide care and assistance to those in need,” Clarke said. “On your Independence Day, the world is telling Ukraine that you are not alone. The Yukon is with you. We are all with you. Today is the time for us to reaffirm our support for Ukraine.”
Clarke finished his speech with the Ukrainian phrase “Slava Ukraini,” meaning “Glory to Ukraine” in English, generating cheers from the crowd.
More than 7,000 kilometres away from Whitehorse, in Ukraine, the nation’s Independence Day was marked by a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy outside Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv and a first-of-its-kind military foray into Russian-occupied Crimea.
According to numerous media reports, Ukraine’s forces landed on the western side of Crimea, where they raised a Ukrainian flag and engaged Russian troops in combat. All Ukrainian soldiers involved in the operation are said to have safely returned from the occupied peninsula.
CNN called the mission “complex and ambitious” and “one of the most daring moves by Kyiv” since Ukrainian forces launched their counter-offensive earlier this summer.
While separated by a considerable distance, the Yukon and Ukraine may soon have closer formal ties, as the ball is rolling on a sister city agreement between Whitehorse and Chortkiv, a city in western Ukraine.
“Our association was at city council on Tuesday discussing this sister city relationship with the city of Chortkiv, and there are some questions about hosting the mayor from Chortkiv,” UCAY volunteer Grant Zazula said.
“So, we’re working with the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon government to try to secure that visit.”
Contact Matthew Bossons at email@example.com