A Cranbrook man is planning to head overseas and support Ukraine against the Russian military invasion that has touched off the worst armed conflict in the region since the Second World War.
Curtis Bond has contacted Ukrainian representatives in Canada and is navigating a complex bureaucratic process before heading over to Eastern Europe to assist Ukraine in the country’s defence against the Russian invasion, ordered by President Vladimir Putin over three weeks ago.
Bond, who served as a reservist in the Canadian Army for four years, said he was compelled to volunteer for the Ukrainian cause, after seeing online videos of people and children fleeing their homes from artillery shelling and aerial bombing.
Bond also noted the friends he made during his time in the military, some of whom were first-generation Canadians whose families had immigrated from Ukraine, but still had extended relatives and friends in the country.
“Seeing the headlines and hearing from friends, even before it really hit headlines here…that Russia had invaded or was crossing the border, that was a decision I made right then and there that if there’s any way I could help [Ukraine], or whether I have to re-enlist back in our military, that’s what I was going to do,” Bond said.
“And sure enough, a couple days in, they launched the Ukraine foreign legion and I called the Embassy about seven or eight times that day, trying to get through.”
Originally hoping to be en route to Ukraine by Friday (March 11), Bond says processing and transport delays that have now been approved will likely mean departure sometime within the next two weeks. He says information from Ukrainian contacts is fluid, however, he is arranging his own transportation to the Ukrainian border.
Once at the border, those contacts will direct him to a designated posting.
Meanwhile, Bond has also been handling some personal logistics, scouring North America for appropriate protective body armour, ballistic helmets, and trauma kits.
Bond said he hopes his background a combat engineer in the local military unit will help the Ukrainian defence, which included training on all kinds of disciplines such as infrastructure and defence construction, demolitions and munitions disposal, mine clearance, breachings, water purification and management, road and bridge building.
“Growing up, I was taught — and believed — that Canada was the one place people could come together, with different beliefs and backgrounds, different languages and skin color,” Bond said. “But at the end of the day we are a relatively young country that was a place of hope for many, for a better life. And a force to be reckoned with, as history shows, where we intervene and pay the price to stop the bullies from bullying and see to it that we lead the world in freedoms and democracy. And in doing so, we create and assist the rest of world on being and becoming the best version of itself.
“And for that belief I’d gladly bleed or pay the price, anywhere on this planet as that’s what it means to not only be Canadian but a soldier.”
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2 million Ukrainians have fled to mostly five neighbouring countries in just 12 days.
“All European states must continue to show generosity,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “Other countries, beyond Europe, also have an important role to play to help people in need and share the international responsibility for millions of refugees.
“Yet behind the warm welcome lies despair and unimaginable suffering. The refugees who have crossed are safe from the violence, but none were spared huge loss and trauma. Behind the monolithic statistics are 2 million stories of separation, anguish, and loss.”
International humanitarian organizations have also mobilized to support relief efforts in Ukraine.
The Canadian Red Cross has sent seven experts to the country to help with humanitarian response, while also committing $45 million to the International Red Cross response to date.
The federal government has also announced it will match up to $30 million of individual donations from Canadians wishing to support the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal. Two weeks ago, British Columbia also announced a $1 million contribution to the Red Cross.
In Cranbrook, a local group has formed a community-based committee to help reunite immediate family members and other refugees from Ukraine with relatives in Cranbrook and the Kootenay region.
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.