‘This guy could die’: Eyewitness describes unprovoked stabbing of Ukrainian refugee at The Forks

The victim of a stabbing at The Forks on Canada Day is a newcomer from Ukraine and arrived a couple of weeks ago. Now, some members in the Ukrainian community are hoping this doesn’t deter refugees from coming to Manitoba. Alex Karpa reports.

By Alex Karpa

A bystander is recounting the graphic details of an alleged assault after a newcomer from Ukraine was stabbed at The Forks in Winnipeg on Canada Day.

Police say one man was stabbed and another pepper-sprayed during an incident at The Forks Friday night. Police say the victim was a refugee from Ukraine who arrived just weeks ago.

Julya Zan and her husband were one of the first bystanders to assist the victim.

“He’s kind of laying in a pool of his own blood and in the back of my head, I’m like, ‘this guy could die right now for nothing,’” recounted Zan.

“Right in front of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, we see a man desperately asking for help. He was holding his chest and his neck. He is walking towards the traffic, and he is saying, ‘someone please help me, I need help, I need help.’”

RELATED: ‘More and more’ Ukrainian evacuees choosing to settle in Manitoba: UCC

Zan immediately called 911 while her husband comforted the victim. Zan realized that the victim and his friend were from Ukraine, as is she, having moved to Winnipeg in 2010, so she began translating and speaking to them.

“I kept saying, ‘everything is going to be OK, you’re going to be OK, the ambulance is coming, relax, breathe.’ But he was panicking, obviously. His body was in shock.”

Group of men pepper-sprayed, stabbed victims

Zan said both men were crossing the street when they bumped into a group of three men. The victims tried to apologize but had a hard time due to the language barrier.

This is when, out of nowhere Zan says, they were pepper-sprayed, and one of the victims was stabbed.

“They don’t want to live downtown no more, they don’t want to stay in Manitoba,” said Zan. “I told them to take some time, think about it, things aren’t typically like this. But how can you convince a guy that just got stabbed walking to The Forks to celebrate Canada Day.”

Joanne Lewandowski with the Manitoba chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress says she hopes this incident doesn’t deter other Ukrainians from coming to the province.

“I think we’re all in shock,” said Lewandowski. “It’s very unfortunate and to be perfectly honest, I am embarrassed.

“We’re not the only province where stabbings happen. It’s happening everywhere. Can someone tell me where there is a safe place? I think it is hard to say. I think we are all safe as much as safe can be. Things do happen.”

Recent violence at The Forks

The stabbing is one of several violent acts that have happened at The Forks recently.

Two people were stabbed on Wednesday, and a father and daughter were attacked by a group on Monday.

Dr. Michael Weinrath from the University of Winnipeg says violent crimes do tend to spike in the summer months, but when multiple incidents happen at a well-known public space like The Forks in a matter of days, people will take notice.

“I mean I think more security officers are going to be just as effective as police because it’s going to discourage people by seeing more of a security force there,” said Weinrath, a criminal justice professor.

A spokesperson from The Forks tells CityNews in the wake of last week’s incidents, they have increased their on-site security team and have requested additional support from Winnipeg police and the Downtown Community Safety Partnership.

Zan says she was surprised more people didn’t stop to help the victim.

“We didn’t know what to do, we just kind of hoped for the ambulance to come as soon as possible, but you know the more people that are there, you feel better. So, we have to stop and help each other in those situations.”

The victim is expected to make a full recovery. At this time, no arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

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