Ukrainian-Canadian strives to find solace through solidarity

Feb 25 2022, 1:04 am

On Saturday, Pavlo Ponikarovskyi will host an anti-war rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery for anyone who stands with Ukraine and against Russian invasion. 

It’s not the first rally of its kind to happen in the city since the Kremlin invaded, but it is likely to be the largest, attended by members of the Ukrainian community and their allies.

Not normally a political organizer, Ponikarovskyi was born and raised in Ukraine.

He immigrated here at 17 to go to university. But when he chose to leave his country, he never thought he would have to fight for its safety from afar.

Ponikarovskyi works a full-time job and organized the rally because he couldn’t sleep at night while the conflict continued. Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine has been devastating for its 40 million residents, and Ponikarovskyi and his community are grieving.

The only thing that helped was creating a space where they can come together to unite and support one another. 

“It’s bittersweet,” he says. “I wish we never had to unite in the face of trauma.”

Despite his sadness, he got up and messaged his Ukrainian friends, community Facebook groups, and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress to set up a protest.

“They said they were planning to create a protest for Saturday as well, and I kind of beat them to it, so we’re just joining forces,” he laughed.

“Everybody who’s Ukrainian, it’s just our event. I wouldn’t say anybody owns it. It’s just for all the Ukrainian community and our allies in Vancouver.”

But it’s not easy. Ponikarovskyi says he has no tears left to cry.

“I had been crying every day since Saturday, and this is on Sunday, when I couldn’t fall asleep with the news. I just needed to do something, at least for myself, to take action about it because I hate feeling helpless,” he says.

“And then I found purpose in enlisting all my friends and spreading stuff on social media, sharing stuff everywhere I can, and just organizing this event so I can no longer cry. I don’t have energy to cry.” 

Instead, he’s feeling “angry and very determined.” He wants everyone to understand that this conflict is real, people are dying, and families are losing their life savings.

“Regardless of the political views anybody may have, regardless of the politicians you may or may not support, I want you to put all of that aside and just support peace,” he says.

Vancouver Police know about the event and officers will be in attendance, which Ponikarovskyi is happy about, because he’s heard concerns of Russia supporters crashing the rally.

“Yes, I have heard from some people in the community that there are certain people who are supporting Russia, which is crazy. How can you support their invasion?” he says.

“There may be some provocations there, so I hope the police will help us stay away from whatever people might do, provoking a peaceful demonstration against war. I don’t understand how they can go to sleep at night knowing that they’re supporting an invasion.”

Starting at 1 pm, the rally will be at the Vancouver Art Gallery at the intersection of Howe and West Georgia.

Aly LaubeAly Laube

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