About 50 people gathered on Saturday in Ottawa to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Natalia Strelkova stood on the steps of the Canadian Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street, draped in the red and white flag of the Belarusian opposition, and spoke about her grandfather. She told how he fought with partisans during World War II and how he was captured and murdered by the Nazis.
“I only knew him from the stories about him. I knew him as a kind and gentle person. A loving father and grandfather,” Strelkova said. Now, she said, the country he fought for – Belarus – has allied with the Russians to attack Ukraine.
“I don’t understand how he would even understand this war,” she said. “Is that why he fought 77 years ago? I do not think.”
Strelkova was among about 50 people who gathered on Saturday to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There were speakers from the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia, many wondering if their countries would be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next targets.
“Today is Mother’s Day,” said Lithuanian Loreta Gudynaite, who carried her country’s yellow, green and blue flag as she spoke of the thousands who died in the war in Ukraine. “There are mothers who will never see their sons and daughters again.
“What is happening now in Ukraine seems very close to us. We Lithuanians share a similar story with Ukraine. We were all busy. We understand what is happening.”
Sunday also marked Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945, when World War II ended for the Western Allies. Russia marks its own Victory Day a day later, on May 9.
Gudynaite noted the irony of Russia honoring its defeat of fascist Nazi Germany, even as its forces attack Ukraine.
“Tomorrow the fascists will celebrate their victory over the fascists,” she told the crowd.
Even as the protesters chanted “No to war!” and “Slava Ukraine!”, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Ukraine on a surprise visit to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Trudeau was joined by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Minister Melanie Joly on the trip, where he pledged Canada’s continued support for Ukraine and denounced Putin’s “heinous war crimes”.
After Sunday’s rally in Ottawa, the group walked up Elgin Street to the National War Memorial, where they laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Gudynaite said he hopes this will help bring attention to the war and encourage others to share their opinions and talk to people about it – even Russians.
“The Russian people are still supporting Putin,” she said. “But the time will come when they will start to see what is happening. I really believe that.”