Russian Canadians worrying over friends in Ukraine

By Maleeha Sheikh

The invasion has been billed as a battle between Russia versus Ukraine — but many from the Russian-Canadian community are speaking out against their president’s actions back home.

They are attending local rallies and sharing their disgust on social media. They want their Ukrainian friends to know they stand with them.

“People are dying and our friends are losing homes. It’s very hard to witness and not be able to do anything,” said Daria.

Daria, who wants to be identified only by her first name, moved to Toronto from Russia nine years ago. She has family in Russia and friends in Ukraine.

“There’s currently a war happening, whatever Putin would like to call it. It’s not a military operation. It’s a full out war on Ukraine. We are against the war. We are against any civilian casualties,” said Daria on behalf of herself and Russian friends.

RELATED: ‘We will win:’ Ukraine accuses Russia of hitting infrastructure, civilian targets

While there are severe repercussions for Russians protesting in their home country, including jail time, many in Toronto are sharing their support without fear. Rabbi Mendel Zaltzman, the CEO of the Jewish Russian Community Centre of Ontario, said speaking up isn’t enough.

“It’s very easy to sit at home and talk about terrible people and all the terrible things they do and then be satisfied and say I’m on the right side of things, my opinion is in the right place but that doesn’t achieve anything,” said Rabbi Zaltzman.

He adds, “We need to think about what we can do. Perhaps lobby the Canadian government to open doors for more refugees. Find an organization that you care about that is helping refugees in one city or many cities in Ukraine.”

On Friday, Alexander Ovechkin, the Russian star of the Washington Capitals, who has posed for photos with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past, spoke out about what’s happening.

RELATED: Canadians opening wallets to support Ukraine amid Russian invasion

“I’m Russian right. Some things I can’t control… It’s not in my hands… I hope it’s going to end soon and it’s going to be peace in both countries. I don’t control this one,” said Ovechkin.

Daria worries for Russia as well.

“It’s also my country. I know how the war’s going to affect us. There’s going to be a recession for the next I don’t know how many years. It’s going to hurt everyone and we’re going to pay for that. Not the oligarchs, not the politicians. My family is still back home,” said Daria.

The Russian-Canadian has been attending rallies and said she isn’t going to stop lending her support to her Ukrainian friends in Canada and in Ukraine, “we’re going to continue doing so until there’s some sort of resolution. A peaceful resolution hopefully.”

Rabbi Zaltzman said his community is here to help, “I just hope that peace comes quickly.”

CityNews reached out to a few Russian community groups in the Greater Toronto Area. Some did not get back to us and others said they did not want to get involved.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today