ST. PAUL – Locals are being invited to sign or write a message on a Canadian flag that will be sent to Ukraine. The flag can be signed during regular business hours at the Smoky Lake-St. Paul Community Futures office until Aug. 23.
Amil Shapka, an active member of the local Ukrainian community, told Lakeland This Week on Aug. 10 that a Ukrainian flag was signed by front-line medical personnel and defenders in Donetsk, Ukraine. The flag was sent to St. Paul, passed on "to us through our grassroots ‘boots on the ground' connections in Ukraine." The flag will proudly hang at the All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Cultural Centre.
According to Shapka, the signing of the Ukraine flag was a token of deep gratitude for the St. Paul community's ongoing support of the war in Ukraine. In return, the All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Cultural Centre invites the local community to sign a Canadian Flag as a reciprocal show of support.
He said the Ukrainians initiated the signing of the Ukrainian flag sent to St. Paul, and the act itself was "A testament to the character of those people." He added, "Here they are surviving… fighting for their very existence… defending against a very aggressive Russia, and they still take the time and have the goodness of heart to say 'Thank you’."
"When I say 'they,' I mean, Ukrainians… period. Because that entire nation has mobilized itself," he said. "You've got children who aren't attending school because they stay home now, and they're weaving camouflage for the snipers and to hide military equipment."
"You've got Ukrainians living outside of Ukraine working in Europe, and every cent they make, they're sending back. They're sending food, vegetables, boots, and everything they can," he said. "So, when I say 'they,' I mean, it's just not the front-line people. It's the entire country… the entire country is at war… and I think the entire country is grateful for all the support that they're getting from outside of their borders."
County of St. Paul to raise Ukrainian flag
Orysia Boychuk, President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council, invited the County of St. Paul to raise the Ukrainian flag on Ukraine's Independence Day on Aug. 24, and the Ukrainian Heritage Day on Sept. 7.
County council agreed to raise both flags on both days.
Shapka said he feels strongly about the decision because many people across Canada have connections to Ukraine, which include either via direct heritage, friends, or family. He said the value of international support should not be lightly underestimated, because of the inspiration international support brings.
He said that all the small acts of kindness, including fundraisers held across the country, are critical to Ukraine's efforts in the war.
The community of St. Paul's previous fundraising efforts also led to the purchase of used ambulances purchased from a hospital in Italy, before being delivered to the Donbas region in Ukraine. Shapka said one of the ambulances has lettering on the side, stating, "Donated by St. Paul, Alberta Community."