Cyclists bring Ukraine peace message to North America.
Marco Levytsky, New Pathway – Ukrainian News, Western Bureau Chief; and
Olena Goncharova, Kyiv Post Canada Bureau Chief.
The “Chumak Way” cyclists breezed through Edmonton, June 26-27 along their 10,000-kilometre trek through North America in support of peace in Ukraine.
The seven cyclists began their tour in Los Angeles, May 23 and end in Washington. D.C., Aug. 29.
Travelling an average of 150 kilometres a day they plan to visit more than 400 towns and cities in Canada and the United States.The purpose of this cycling tour is to raise awareness about the need for peace in Donbas, Ukraine, present a positive image, and to promote the hottest cycling innovations.
The team members had to go through a selection process and complete the training task to check their endurance before getting on a team, Kostianin Samchuk, the team leader, explained. He added that it was “important to know people with whom you will be going for a long tour overseas.”
Among the cyclists are two veterans of the war in Donbas, Samchuk himself and Serhiy Konoval. Speaking during a meeting with the Ukrainian community at the Ukrainian National Federation Hall on June 27, Samchuk said that when he returned from the front he was considering returning to work, but decided to do something for the country, instead.
“It’s not right to waste your life just for making money. I feel that you have to do something …that will bring benefits for people — for Ukraine,” he said, speaking in Ukrainian.
The cyclists had first toured 16 countries in Europe along an 11,000 kilometre route back in 2016 setting Ukraine’s national record for the longest non-stop group tour.
Asked about his wartime experiences, Samchuk said that at the outset of the conflict, Ukrainians were very unprepared and poorly supplied.
“If it wasn’t for the volunteers, the results would have been quite different,” he said.
Samchuk also noted that despite official Russian denial that their soldiers were in Donbas, he personally saw them there and no one tried to hide their presence.
For Samchuk and Konoval cycling became a retreat after war and “helped tremendously” in rehabilitation process. Samchuk thanked the diaspora for their support.
Samchuk and fellow cyclists Konoval, Oleksiy Smianov, Serhiy Kotyk, Dmytro Tokin, Maksym Symak and Yaroslav Matviichuk were welcomed at the meeting by Ukrainian Canadian Congress Edmonton Branch President Orysia Boychuk, UNF Edmonton President Mykola Vorotilenko and Ukrainian Women’s Organization President Oleksandra Sribnyak.
They arrived in Edmonton the previous day on June 26 where they were greeted on the Alberta Legislature grounds by the members of federal government, including Kerry Diotte, MP for Edmonton Griesbach and Linda Duncan, MP for Edmonton Strathcona who thanked them for their courage and desire to “show real Ukraine to the Ukrainian-Canadian community.”
While reminiscing on their route to Edmonton, Konoval said that they had hard time getting down the mountains in the province of British Columbia.
“We got rained a lot and we were told to look out for bears because there are many of them there at this time. So, when we saw something big and dark on the side of the road we just assumed it was a bear,” he said. In fact, it was a police car.
Their first stop in Canada was Vancouver where they were welcomed by Wayne Stetski, MP for Kootenay – Columbia, co-chair of the All-Party Cycling Caucus, Andriy Shevchenko, Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada, and members of the Ukrainian community who greeted them with bread and salt.
Other major Canadian centres on their itinerary include Saskatoon, Regina, Yorkton, Winnipeg, London, Toronto, Oshawa, Hamilton, St. Catharines, Ottawa and Montreal.