Bill Kulas is just one Highlander with ties to Ukraine now reeling from the Russian invasion of the European country. Kulas’ ancestors came to Canada in the early 1900s but he still has extended family in the war-ravaged country, including a cousin who is married with a son. He’s been in touch with the cousin, Ivan Fratsovir, since Russia began its invasion Feb. 24.
The family lives in western Ukraine about 60km from the Polish border.
Kulas shared a text from Fratsovir with The Highlander. In it, he expresses fear and disbelief. “People are panicking, hiding in the subway, some have already left their homes, rockets are falling all over our country. But we will not hand over our Ukraine to the occupiers. [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin wants to seize the capital. Belarus has supported Russia.”
However, Fratsovir also expresses hope, telling Kulas, “I think that everything will pass, everything will be fine. Thank you for your support.”
For his part, Kulas said, “who would believe that in 2022 we would face the threat and potential of another world war?”
He said Putin is not only attacking Ukraine, its language, culture and traditions, but democracy, freedom and the entire world.
Kulas said Ukraine and its people have suffered greatly in the past with the mass starvation in the 1930s of millions of Ukrainian men, women and children in what is known as the Holodomor under Stalin.
There was also the Crimean invasion in 2014. Now, he is again watching television news coverage and indiscriminate bombings.
“My hope is that the Russian people have the will and courage to stop this insane situation and withdraw their war efforts in Ukraine,” he said.
He is hopeful worldwide retribution will convince Putin’s colleagues to bring an end to the invasion. It’s been an emotional few days, Kulas said. “Devastating to hear that people are sitting in an apartment or home and facing bombings and missiles. For what? It’s awful. The Russian bear has tried to swallow a Ukrainian porcupine.” He said Putin’s legacy will be one of “pariah, rogue leader, tyrant, oppressor, killer …”
He said he and wife Ginger are praying the invasion will come to a quick resolution with a peaceful ending. If that does not happen, the Kulases will be “more than happy” to sponsor his cousin’s family to come to Canada.
Meanwhile, Leona Carter’s ancestors are Ukrainian, settling in Dauphin, MB in 1897.
She visited Ukraine in 2001, spending three weeks touring villages and graveyards.
She said the locals even cleared the cemetery of weeds so they could find their departed family members.
She said they were met with hospitality at every turn, including dancers, musicians and feasts even though the people were poor.
She said the invasion has made her “absolutely sick. There is no reason for it except one person thinks he should take back everything lost when the Soviet Union was shut down.” Valerie Kuinka was born in Canada, as were her parents, but she is also of Ukrainian heritage. She said she feels the connection through her upbringing. “The situation in the Ukraine is beyond all our worst nightmares,” she said.
“As a Canadian, I feel the sharp horror and deep sympathy for the Ukrainian people as we watch this unbelievable situation develop and worsen.”

Get The Highlander in your inbox every Thursday