Andre Sochaniwsky for New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
On 7 June 2019, the Ukrainian War Veterans Association of Canada honoured the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the Normandy coast of France. On the 6th of June 1944, American, British and Canadian forces participated in the largest seaborne invasion in history codenamed Operation Neptune. The attack began the liberation of Western Europe and the complete defeat of Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, the events that followed led to Europe being divided between democracies and totalitarian communist regimes.
When dawn broke over the English Channel on that day, five thousand naval craft approached the coast of France, the largest armada of ships ever assembled, while two thousand aircraft provided air cover and tactical bombing. Of the nearly 150,000 Allied troops who landed or parachuted into the invasion area, 14,000 were Canadians. They assaulted a beachfront code-named “Juno”, while Canadian paratroopers landed just east of the assault beaches.
The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) contributed 110 ships and 10,000 sailors in support of the landings while the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) had helped prepare the invasion by bombing targets inland.
Although the Allies encountered stiff German defences armed with artillery, machine guns, mines, and booby-traps, the invasion was a success. On D-Day, Canadians suffered 1074 casualties, including 359 killed. Many Canadian solders of Ukrainian descent participated in D-Day such as Nick Bodnar, a bombardier in 426 (RCAF) Squadron, Wally Kupchenko, an armoured officer and Wally Romanow, a member of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion who landed behind enemy lines.
After viewing documentary footage of the attack, UWVA members and guests stood and paused for a moment of silence and paid tribute to the brave men and women who served Canada in World War II. More than 45,000 Canadian sailors, soldiers and airmen made the supreme sacrifice and over 55,000 were wounded in the struggle to defeat tyranny. More than 1 million Canadians served in uniform during World War II – among them some 40,000 of Ukrainian origin. Captain (Navy) Oleksandr Orekhov, from the Ukrainian Navy then recited in Ukrainian “On Flanders Fields”.
Our organization also took a moment to acknowledge attending Ukrainian World War II veteran Armin Konn, who as a young child survived the Holodomor, endured the execution of his father by the Soviet secret police (NKVD) in 1937 and then the execution of his mother and brother by the German military in 1943 for shielding Jewish children in Kyivska Oblast.
Afterwards, Guest Speaker Taras Jackiw, member of the Audit Committee of the Ukrainian National Federation, presented to attendees his recent trip to the Normandy coast, where he toured the 5 D-Day landing beaches, in addition to several cemeteries of the Allied war dead. Many of the German bunkers, buildings and bridges remain today, seven decades later.
At this event, the President of the UWVA, Andre Sochaniwsky, bestowed the Knight’s Cross upon one of its newest members, Yurii Aleksandrov, for “selfless duty to country in operations on and off the battlefield.” From 2002-2004, Yurii served in the 25th Separate Dnipropetrovsk Airborne Brigade. In 2014, when Russia attacked Ukraine, he was called back into service with the 25th Brigade to defend Ukraine from invasion. He almost immediately saw combat action in Sloviansk, Mariupol, Piske and Debeltseve – towns which saw intense and violent fighting. Upon return to civilian life, he created an organization to support members of his old unit and Ukrainian military veterans.
The UWVA also took the opportunity to bid farewell to Captain (Navy) Oleksandr Orekhov. Over the past 10 months, the UWVA has come to know Oleksandr, a Marine combat veteran in the Ukrainian Navy who has been in Canada attending a year long course at the Canadian Forces College (CFC). He has participated in numerous UWVA and other events in the Ukrainian community in Toronto. Capt (N) Orekhov has successfully completed his Master degree at CFC and will be returning to Ukraine to apply his new knowledge and make a difference in Ukraine. The UWVA presented Oleksandr with some parting gifts as Veteran Armin Konn played and sang a few songs on his accordion.
The event concluded with a special presentation from the Ukrainian Credit Union Limited. UCU Limited presented a cheque in the amount of $ 10,000 to the UWVA. The membership was very pleasantly surprised and honoured to receive such a substantial gift and have it presented personally by the Chair of the Board of Directors, Slawko Borys. This most recent contribution, is yet another example of UCU’s unwavering financial support of our 90-year old organization. The funding will enable the UWVA to continue to execute its mission of supporting military-related projects of interest such as veterans’ programs, building awareness of Canadian and Ukrainian military contributions and fostering relationships between the Canadian and Ukrainian militaries on matters of joint interest.
Capt (Retd) Andre Sochaniwsky CD is the President of the Ukrainian War Veterans Association of Canada. From 1984 to 1997, he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as an Air Combat Systems Officer.