By Laurel Lawry, MONOVA’s Manager of Business Operations
As shouts of “Stand with Ukraine” are heard around the world and echo across Burrard Inlet from rallies at Jack Poole Plaza on Vancouver’s waterfront, North Vancouverites and local organizations are finding ways to support friends and family in Ukraine, those who are fleeing war, and the many Ukrainian-Canadians who are watching, in wide-eyed horror, as their country is wracked by shelling and violence.
Blue and yellow lights at both municipal halls raise awareness of the tragic and escalating war, evoking Ukraine’s blue and yellow flag, which symbolizes blue sky and yellow fields. Flags and messages of support are displayed in shop windows and on the balconies of local homes.
Across the country, Canadians are united in showing they care for a country and its people that are inspiring many by their determination and resilience.
City of North Vancouver Councillor Angela Uruski Girard, of Polish-Ukrainian heritage, shared “I feel a deep connection to my heritage and a fraternity with the people of Ukraine. As a North Vancouver City Councillor, one of my goals is to contribute to an inclusive community, one that respects diverse histories and fosters understanding and support. The ways in which North Vancouver and Canada are assisting people who are fleeing their homeland really demonstrates these values. My thoughts and prayers are with Ukrainians, who are showing such strength in the face of this tragic war.”
On February 24, 2022, City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan’s Statement on the Invasion of Ukraine encouraged “everyone to lean on others in the community during this difficult time. We are here to support you.”
“District Hall is lit up to show our community’s support for those impacted by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine,” added District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little.
“The Canadian Polish Congress is busy raising funds to help the over 2 million Ukrainian refugees that crossed the border,” added Michael K. Dembek, President of the Canadian Polish Congress of British Columbia. “We will continue to support them in rebuilding their homes and lives once this war is over.”
First Nations communities have felt the ongoing devastation of colonialism and yet, in the words of Squamish Nation member and MONOVA Commissioner Sheryl Rivers, “We are one people.”
On the Canadian Prairies, Indigenous communities are sharing the stories of their own connection to Ukrainian people, as they wear floral kokum or babushka scarves (Cree and Ukrainian words for Grandmother) in tribute to relationships between First Nation and Métis people and Ukrainian settlers built in the first half of the 20th century around trade and kinship prompted by the common experience of marginalization and discrimination at that time.
This tradition has travelled across North America, and Sheryl Rivers shared that she too has a kokum scarf that she keeps with her for prayer.
“The Trauma Doesn’t Leave You.”
As a third-generation Canadian of Ukrainian descent who is active in my cultural community, I am touched personally by the events and like many settlers in Canada, we see similarities between this crisis and the experiences of local North Vancouver residents’ immigration stories.
“We know war. The trauma doesn’t leave you,” says Shawn Hossein, local resident and owner of Universal Printing in North Vancouver. “After my family and I left Iran and came to North Vancouver, I would jump every time my children slammed the door. We are lucky to live in peace in Canada and my heart goes out to the Ukrainian people.”
Ukrainians have been settling in Canada since 1891, and although they were invited to emigrate from Ukraine by the Canadian government, they experienced incredible hardships and discrimination once they arrived. As a result, some of today’s Canadians of Ukrainian descent carry anglicized surnames, which allowed their grandparents to obtain employment or promotions they would be barred from with a Ukrainian name.
During the First World War, thousands of Ukrainian-Canadians, including some women and children, were interned in concentration camps across Canada, with nine such camps located in BC. Subsequent waves of immigration brought Ukrainians escaping occupation, forced famine and changing political regimes.
Now, Canada is again opening its borders to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion of their country. Impact North Shore helps create opportunities for success for immigrants and newcomers. Wendy McCulloch, Impact’s Executive Director, commented, “The situation in Ukraine is heartbreaking. We are continuing to monitor the situation as there is much uncertainty. As an organization that focuses on im/migration and equity we stay reminded of the many refugees in Afghanistan, Syria, Africa who are awaiting acceptance into refugee streams to Canada.”
Sharing Stories of Diversity and Identity
Like other minority communities, language and cultural pursuits are a way to hold onto identity carried across continents. Poetry, music, art, dance and traditional cuisine help families retain connection to their roots. In North Vancouver, the celebration of diverse cultures has been an integral part of social life, with festivals and concerts like North Shore Folkfest providing ways to share experiences and cultivate respect and understanding.
At MONOVA, we will continue to collect and share stories of North Vancouver, and issues important to this community. Alongside North Vancouver community members, MONOVA will #StandWithUkraine.
Ways To Support Ukraine
- Canada-Ukraine Foundation
- UN Refugee Agency
- Canadian Red Cross
- Recommendations on how to best support Ukraine via Charity Intelligence Canada
Longtime resident of North Vancouver, Laurel (Parasiuk) Lawry, is MONOVA’s Manager of Business Operations. Since 2012, Laurel has been Director of Dovbush School of Ukrainian Dance in East Vancouver, and is active in the Lower Mainland’s Ukrainian cultural community.
We rely on contributions, monthly or one-time gifts, to help MONOVA safeguard and expand our community’s archival and museum collections, build learning experiences and inspire future generations.
Donations are accepted through the Friends of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, Registered Charity No. 89031 1772 RR0001.
We respectfully acknowledge that MONOVA: Museum and Archives of North Vancouver is located on the traditional lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, whose ancestors have lived here for countless generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and learn with them on unceded Coast Salish Territory.