Russian-Canadians react to war in Ukraine: ‘It’s unbearable, unexplainable, unspeakable’ – Edmonton


People around the world have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including Russian-Canadians. Those who have say it is their responsibility to separate the beliefs of Russian people from the choices of the Russian government.

Ekaterina Gillingham and Elena Arutyunova both immigrated to Canada from Russia and the Edmontonians say they do not agree with the violent invasion.

“I want it to be stopped as soon as possible,” Arutyunova said. “It’s impossible what is going on.”

Like many Russians, Gillingham and Arutyunova have close ties to both countries involved in the conflict. Gillingham’s great-grandmother is Ukrainian, while Arutyunova is half-Russian, half-Ukrainian, and was raised part-time in both countries.

READ MORE: Calgary woman takes in niece and nephew as sister defends home in Ukraine

To give more context to Canadians, Arutyunova said the invasion would be comparable to a war between Alberta and British Columbia.

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Although she left Russia a long time ago, she said she still feels a lot of shame.

“Even though I didn’t do anything, and I’ve lived here for 20 years, I am still Russian,” Arutyunova said. “To see what your country is doing, it relates to me as well.

“We all feel anger and a lot of shame.”

Gillingham said she left Russia for her son’s safety. She said a number of political conflicts that Russia was involved in was something she did not want her son to have to deal with.

“I haven’t met anyone who would support the war, or the idea of the war.”

Arutyunova said the Russia’s population is now in an “information bubble” when it comes to media, and Russians “do not hear everything they should hear.” She added that not everyone is aware of what is actually happening outside of the country.

As a result of the invasion, some members of the Russian community in Canada have been targets of harassment. In Vancouver, a Russian community centre was vandalized with blue and yellow paint. In Calgary, police are investigating the online harassment of Russian-Canadians.

Gillingham and Arutyunova said they have not experienced any kind of targeted hate in Edmonton, but hearing those stories is troublesome.

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Both women said while they understand where the anger is coming from, targeting Russians who immigrated to Canada is not the solution.

“Those actions do not help Ukrainians,” Arutyunova said.

“Russian-Canadians feel for Ukrainians, and that’s why I think it’s the wrong target.”

Gillingham said she wants to see Ukraine win the war, and she believes the war is not a conflict between countries, but instead a war between “human beings and evil.”

With new legislation in place in Russia that can punish people who criticize the war, Gillingham said she believes it is the responsibility of Russian-Canadians to send the message that they do not support the violence.

READ MORE: ‘The Exodus’: Why some Russians are fleeing their homeland amid Ukraine invasion

“We should not be lazy to repeat the message that politics and the people are different,” she said.

“We are human, and we are here to help.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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