Denys Storozhuk, president of Kelowna Stands With Ukraine, talks with Oleksandr Tretyak, mayor of Rivne, about establishing a sister city relationship.
It was a stark reminder of the reality that Ukrainians are facing daily.
On Wednesday afternoon, Global News was on a Zoom call with Oleksandr Tretyak, the mayor of a city in Ukraine, when air-raid sirens began blaring.
“I have to escape to a bomb shelter,” said Tretyak, the mayor of Rivne, a city of 300,000 around four hours west of Kyiv.
Tretyak took his laptop and continued the Zoom call from a bomb shelter, something he and local residents are getting all too familiar with.
“We have to spend hours and hours in bomb shelters and this is terrible when you have to wake up with your kids at 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m., and go down to bomb shelters to hide,” he told Global News.
Also on the call from the Okanagan was Denys Storozhuk, president of the newly formed group Kelowna Stands With Ukraine.
Tretyak and Storozhuk discussed the idea of Kelowna and Rivne becoming sister cities.
“It’s kind of taking them under our umbrella,” said Storozhuk.
Rivne is located northwestern Ukraine, close to the border with Belarus.
On Tuesday, a television tower was bombed outside of the city.
Twenty-one Ukrainian troops died, 10 were wounded.
“Any minute, Putin can break our borders and he can send his troops on our regions,” Tretyak said.
The idea of establishing a sister-city relationship came after Tretyak saw all the support coming from Kelowna residents on social media.
That prompted him to reach out to Kelowna Stands With Ukraine for more help.
Storozhuk took the request for help a step further and formally requested that Kelowna make Rivne its sister city.
“It’s much better to focus and being a direct connection because our idea is not just sending some truckloads of humanitarian aid — whether it’s used or not, maybe half of that will be thrown away — but work on the specific things that they need,” Storozhuk said.
“Specific connection. That’s what we try to do.”
The request for the sister-city relationship will be before city council for consideration on Monday.
City councillor Mohini Singh said the idea is absolutely worth exploring.
“We’ve been very generous to communities in the past. I can see if there’s a need there,” Singh said.
“I can see us fundraising to help communities, help schools, help colleges, hospitals, so on and so forth, to help that community get back on its feet.”
In the meantime, Tretyak made a plea to Kelowna residents to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
“Long-term food boxes, with medicine, individual first-aid kits for our troops, he said.
“I would be very grateful for you. I would be very appreciative for you.”
He also asked Global News to keep reporting on the atrocities in Ukraine and encouraging all residents to fly Ukrainian flags as a symbol of solidarity.
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