Remarks by Prof. Bohdan Kordan at the Support for Ukraine Rally, Saskatoon City Hall, February 27, 2022, 2:00 pm.
Dear Friends, Canadians all:
These are dark days. In Europe, once more, we hear the din and thunder of war. As we scroll through the images on our phones and hear the latest in breaking news, we watch and listen in disbelief. We ask: How is this possible? Why is this happening? The explanations are myriad and complex. The reality, however, is much simpler. Soldiers are needlessly dying. People are needlessly suffering.
We sense the fear and anger of the people of Ukraine and are moved by their tears and pain. Hundreds of thousands have fled in search of shelter and safety. But truthfully, there is no escaping war. Defenders have taken up the shield and sword to defend their homeland and families. But truthfully, they do so against great odds. Still, Ukrainians feel they will prevail because they believe in the rightness of their cause and in deliverance from evil. Most of all they are confident in the will and strength of an independent and sovereign Ukraine.
Theirs is a quiet but resolute strength borne of faith grounded in the spirit of freedom and justice. But to defend what is rightfully theirs, they need help. They do not ask of Canadians to fight for their homeland. What they do ask for, however, are even greater means to help fend off those who would deny them their liberty. They ask for advanced weapons that will assist in the fight currently being waged. They ask that we impose deeper and more severe sanctions. They ask that we fully isolate Russia so that despotism may not be allowed to flourish.
We, of course, should be against war. The costs of war are high and the tragedy almost too much to bear. But we must also be in favor of justice. When the winds of war blow fierce, justice will be had only by helping those who are willing to fight and die for it – to help in ways that matter now.
Ukrainians fight for democracy and freedom because the alternative is unacceptable. They need only to look to annexed Crimea and the occupied territories in the East, in Donetsk and Luhansk, where criminal behavior is the norm, intimidation a way of life, and communities are denied their traditions, language and faith. These are places where arrests are common, human rights are violated, where the innocence of children is robbed by those who would prepare them as fodder in yet one more future, unjust war. These are places where today there are no prospects, no future. Ukrainians must fight because Ukraine is their home. But they must also fight because they reject the alternative. They fight for an open, free, and tolerant society.
We must say no to Russia’s war and aggression. But we must also say yes to Ukraine’s freedom and independence. As a result, we must help where we can. Moreover, we say this with the experience and knowledge of our past – a time when young Canadians went to distant lands to defend humanity from those who would wage war. They did so not knowing whether they would return. Many did not. They died at Hong Kong, Dieppe, Juno Beach. Arnhem and the Scheldt, among others. They understood the high cost of freedom. But they did not shrink from their duty to defend the right of people everywhere to live without fear, without violence, with dignity and in peace.
Just as our honored dead did not break faith, so we must not. To dismiss the current war waged by Russia in Ukraine is to turn our backs on our past and ignore the future. Ukrainians today are fighting for their freedom and ours. If they fail, then we fail. If they fail, then we can expect the worst. They must not fail for their sake and ours.
Sadly, the war may not end tomorrow. Nor perhaps in the months ahead and, God forbid, even years to come. Still, we should not despair. The history of Ukraine shows that Ukrainians are a resilient, spirited, and tough people. These are the traits that sustained them in the past and will carry them through the difficult times ahead. With this knowledge, let us help them wherever and however we can. Let us stand firm with them no matter how much it takes, no matter how long it takes.
The war seems far away. It is not. Their fate is inextricably linked to ours. Therefore, we must encourage our political leaders to have strength of heart. We must remind them that it is not enough to denounce the despot in the Kremlin, a warmonger who would lead us to believe in alternative realities and threaten with nuclear weapons those who would help Ukraine to preserve its democracy. Rather, in our name, our political leaders in Canada must do all they can both to stop Russia’s aggression and create a just and lasting peace.
We further ask of Canadians to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, those who are defending their freedom and ours. We beseech our fellow citizens not to look away, but to acknowledge that their fate is our fate, that their suffering is our suffering.
We are heartened by people of good will in Russia who are protesting and even now being arrested to face a criminal and false justice. We pray that they and other caring Russians be given the strength and courage to face their trials with dignity, to serve as a rejoinder to tyranny and despotism and through their actions help restore Russia to the ranks of the civilized world.
Dear friends, we are reminded that when there is darkness, there can also be light. When darkness threatens to envelope Ukraine once more, to plunge it back into despair and despondency, we must take heart in those defenders – the whole of Ukraine – military and civilians, men and women alike – who stand courageously as a light against the darkness.
Let us ensure that the bright light of freedom and democracy in Ukraine not be allowed to dim. Let them not stand alone. Let us here and now, and across Canada, raise our voices so that the people of Ukraine may know that they are not alone.
Slava Ukraini. Heroiam slava!