Marco Levytsky, NP-UN Western Bureau Chief.
Ukraine’s Consulate in Edmonton hosted a reception for members of the Ukrainian community and representatives of all three government levels to celebrate the 28th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence at the Chateau Lacombe, September 5.
Consul General Oleksandr Danyleiko, who was a student when independence was declared in 1991, recalled that period as a “fantastic time of incredible inspiration and enormous hopes.”
“We had a strong belief that Ukraine would quickly become a free, democratic and prosperous country.
“Unfortunately, the miracle did not happen. We faced very serious challenges, economic instability, disorganisation of industrial production, enormous inflation. Just imagine: in 1991 inflation was 390 % in 1992 — 2100 %, in 1993 — 10 300 %. It was practically impossible to operate economy in such conditions,” he stated
Today Ukraine is still a young democracy with a lot of difficulties and problems to solve, but “has asserted itself as a democratic European country, full-fledged member of the international community and reliable partner”
It would be a lot more successful had Russia not invaded, however.
“Since the beginning of Russian invasion about 14,000 people have been killed, 30,000 wounded, 1.8 million people have been displaced. We lost 44,000 sq.km. or 7% of our territory, 16% of our GDP just for the first two years of the war.
“Russia took over 80 % of Ukrainian oil and gas deposits in the Black Sea, 115 out of 150 coal mines in Donbas region. Currently, our total losses count up to $100 billion and increase every day.
“(Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s main goal is not to allow Ukraine, by any price, to become successful country, and a member of the European family. He understands that once it happens his imperial doctrine of the ‘Russian world’ will break apart. If we all together, as an international community don’t stop him, he will be doing what he wants and as long as he wants. It will cost us thousands of lives and make millions of innocent people suffer. And believe me, Russia won’t stop in Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova. The whole continent is under threat,” he noted.
Despite Russian aggression, Ukraine has just held unprecedented elections in which Volodymyr Zelenskyy got 73% of the vote in the presidential round and his party won an absolute majority in the subsequent parliamentary one.
“It is a unique possibility to make necessary changes and reforms quickly. But at the same time, it is a great responsibility,” he stated.
Danyleiko thanked Canada for all the support it has given Ukraine over the years, citing Operation UNIFIER and the Free Trade Agreement as examples.
The event also celebrated the establishment of the consulate one year earlier.
“We want to be not only the office providing consular service to the citizens. We are going to be the bridge between Ukraine and Alberta, Ukraine and Western Canada. We are going to be your reliable partner in all spheres of bilateral relations: trade and economics, culture and education,” Danyleiko said.
Speaking on behalf of the Government of Alberta, Laila Goodridge, MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche stated that like many Albertans, she has Ukrainian roots.
“My family chose to come to Canada in search of freedom and opportunities, all the while, praying that their homeland would one day be free.”
For those born in Canada it is hard to imagine the struggle for independence that Ukrainians undertook, she continued.
“What an accomplishment. I know my Baba and our family celebrated. What a victory.
“I don’t believe it is stating it too strongly that this act of independence was an important step in the ultimate collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,” she added.
Speaking on behalf of the Official Opposition, Edmonton Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi paid tribute to Ukrainian pioneers.
‘“These early settlers brought with them skills and tools that were integral to Alberta’s growing economy. Values that created strong Alberta communities that stand today. Since then Ukrainian Albertans have contributed tremendously to every aspect of Alberta society. From business and industry to agriculture, academia, public service sports and culture, Ukrainian Albertans have made Alberta a better place for all.”
Edmonton Strathcona MP Linda Duncan, who is retiring from office following next month’s election, said she considers Ukrainians to be her other family because the community welcomed her so warmly both in Edmonton and Ottawa.
Duncan, who Vice President of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group for the New Democratic Party, added that she and Liberal Chair Borys Wrzesnewskyj “have become great friends and worked on a lot of campaigns together to try to get more parliamentary support for Ukrainian programs. In particular, the (Canada Ukraine Parliamentary program) intern program on the hill”
Duncan, who has had six such interns working in her office praised them, noting “it’s wonderful because it’s showing the vivaciousness of the youth of what Ukraine has to offer to the rest of the world”
Representing the City of Edmonton, Ward 3 Councillor Jon Dziadyk, who is of Ukrainian origin, said independence is not something we can take for granted.
“As we celebrate Ukraine’s independence, I think of those who gave their lives to stop the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine and I am proud to see the ongoing support of Canada to Ukraine.
“This includes the Operation UNIFIER that provides military training to support Ukraine’s security.”
Dziadyk added that we are also celebrating Ukrainian Canadian Heritage Day.
“We recognize the rich tapestry of Alberta’s Ukrainian community, which has played – and continues to play – a central role in the life of our city.
“Here in Edmonton, as in so many other communities across Canada the Ukrainian community has made its mark in all areas, from business and recreation, to the arts and public service.”
Olesia Luciw-Andryjowycz, President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council, focused on the significance of the opening of the Consulate in Edmonton.
“In addition to providing much-needed permanent services to Ukrainian citizens living in Western Canada, the new Consulate will strengthen economic ties between our two countries. With the Free Trade Agreement, Canadian and Ukrainian business and investors have an enormous opportunity to ensure growing prosperity for both our peoples. And we know that the Consulate here will do much to encourage these growing linkages between Canada and Ukraine.
“UCC APC and its Branches and organizations looks forward to many collaborative efforts together with the Embassy and the Consulate. Congratulations for surviving our brutal winter and rainy summer, just as our immigrants did over 128 years ago. Remember the best is yet to come,” she said.