Father Michael Skrumeda — pictured delivering the Christmas liturgy at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Brandon in January 2012 — says the ongoing tension in Ukraine is tough on his parishioners, some of whom have had friends killed in the conflict. (FILE PHOTO)
A conflict more than 7,500 kilometres away is resonating with the Ukrainian community in Brandon.
The Malaysia Airlines plane shot out of the sky is just the latest in a string of incidents that have left some here on edge, according to Father Michael Skrumeda.
While the priest at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church doesn’t have family in harm’s way, he said there are many in the Ukrainian community who have a direct connection to the conflict.
"It’s very tough," Skrumeda said. "There are parishioners in the Brandon parish who ... during the previous conflict or the one that is going on right now, they have had friends killed."
From the decision by then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to pull out of a deal with the European Union in November 2013 to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014, the fighting between Ukrainian nationalists and pro-Russian separatists has escalated.
In the wake of the downing of the airplane in Eastern Ukraine, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada would introduce new sanctions against Russia, which politicians accuse of supporting the separatists.
"We are very troubled by (the downing of the plane)," Skrumeda said. "One is blaming the other, but we very well know that the Ukrainian government has been fighting the separatists that have been backed by Russia."
He’s not sure how much damage more sanctions can hurt Russia, and would like to see another tact taken.
"Countries need to put the pressure on Russia in a different way. The number of students that are studying at Canadian institutions or in other countries should be booted out. They are being prepared to be the future oligarchs and are taking advantage of the West."
One thing he doesn’t support is military intervention.
Skrumeda said recent history in other areas illustrates that military intervention doesn’t work. He believes education is paramount to changing the entrenched views of fighters.
"Military action won’t solve much. You lose lives and there is no convincing, it has to be a different approach."
Skrumeda said he spoke to a woman who just returned from Ukraine, where she was visiting family.
Her family lives on the western border of the country, where it is relatively peaceful compared to the east.
Skrumeda said in the capital city of Kiev, the separatists are using a culture of uncertainty to push their agenda forward.
"People are afraid to go out and walk the streets because they don’t know if they are going to be mugged," Skrumeda said. "Instead of providing a culture of love, understanding and peace, it’s hate and fear-mongering that the separatists are using, and it’s unfortunate."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 22, 2014