Dmytro Nedopas struggles to keep his emotions from overwhelming his words as he speaks of Ukraine.
Dmytro has lived in Salmon Arm for five years, Canada since 2003. He and his spouse, Natalia, who he invited to Canada in 2019, were married in the summer of 2021 in Lviv, Ukraine. They are both now in Salmon Arm.
While his immediate family lives in Mississauga, Dmytro’s roots, extended family and friends are in Ukraine. Natalia’s 18-year-old son Andriy and her parents live in Ukraine.
Young Andriy is determined to fight to defend Ukraine. He tells Natalia repeatedly he is going.
Dmytro said Natalia has told him it’s OK.
“There’s nothing she can do about it and she understands why he’s going,” Dmytro said.
“It’s very personal,” he continues, tears welling.
Dmytro has been in touch with people in Ukraine via phone, but as of March 9, “I can’t get hold of any of my friends. The last time was four days ago. They were saying it was devastating. My friends are fighting.”
Dmytro has been struggling with being in Canada as he, too, wants to defend Ukraine. However, Natalia does not want him to go as she knows he’ll fight and she doesn’t want to lose him.
“I have a huge respect for my wife. If I would be here by myself I would be gone a long time ago. She’s saying we can help more here, instead of going there and dying or getting wounded.”
He agrees it’s a torturous time.
“It’s killing me. I’m trying to get a stress leave at work. I can’t think of anything else,” he said, the strain evident in his face. “I tried to calm myself; I cannot eat, I cannot sleep, everything is just shattered.”
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The couple has decided that Natalia will return to Ukraine, near the Polish border, to work with a team of trusted volunteers to provide help for those in need and those suffering the most. The couple is now fundraising so that she will have resources to provide Ukrainian citizens what is needed.
“Honestly, I never ask for money, I don’t know how to do it, I always support myself,” Dmytro admits. “I never ask strangers for support or help. For me it’s easier to go to fight than ask for support.”
But now he finds himself in a situation where he needs to.
Money is being collected at Cantina Vallarta Restaurant at 331 Hudson Ave. NE, or funds can be transferred electronically to a TD bank account set up for the purpose, accessible via: email@example.com.
A Facebook page has also been set up at https://www.facebook.com/Help-Ukraine-100292665942764.
Dmytro said the daughter of one of the women connected to the Salmon Arm restaurant lives in Spain and so an airline ticket has been purchased from Poland to Madrid, Spain, for Natalia’s sister. Another friend from Mexico is ready to buy a ticket from Spain to Canada for her when it’s needed. Dmytro said the paperwork is underway.
“My main concern now is my stepson and my parents-in-law. They can’t get out this time, they say. They’re too close to Russian military,” he said, and will be in the path as the military advances.
A few days ago Natalia’s sister was moved from a dangerous area in the town of Irpen.
“They were staying, a group of eight in the house. They couldn’t get out. They were surrounded by shelling and bombing for eight days. Russians were shooting everyone who was moving.”
He said the others didn’t want to leave, but a friend of Natalia’s took her sister to drop her off at the train station.
Natalia was with her the whole time on the phone.
“They (the Russian military) started shooting the train station. They (residents) were hiding under the platform. My wife was hearing all this shooting, bombs, screaming.”
Her sister had to wait for two trains which were full going to the Polish border.
“After her train left, the train coming to pick up more people got bombed. The next day the rest of the people from the house fled. If they had waited two more days they would be gone, all of them,” he said, as the house was hit by a bomb.
He said his cousin, 60, is diabetic, his wife is ill and they have been taking care of their 10-year-old grandson after their son died in a car accident two years ago.
“He went to fight. He said he’s not going to wait until they (the Russian soldiers) come to their house.”
Dymtro said he and Natalia were shocked when Natalia’s mother phoned late at night to say Russia was invading Ukraine.
“First it was panic. We couldn’t sleep, we couldn’t eat – hearing they were shelling cities with civilians in them.”
Asked why so many Russian citizens are supporting President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, Dmytro said it’s all the propaganda.
“There’s nothing else on TV. ‘NATO’s on the doorstep, Ukraine fascists are on the streets.’ It’s constantly there. My wife’s cousin lives in Moscow. She said, ‘but you people are bombing your own people.’ My wife snapped,” Dmytro said.
They’ve since sent her videos of what’s actually happening in Ukraine.
“You can’t blame them as they see nothing else.”
Dmytro said he heard from Syrian people right away who said, “Now the world will know what we went through.” He said they are backing him and he understands now what they have been experiencing, because Russia has been backing the Syrian president, using propaganda while hospitals and children have been bombed.
Dmytro is grateful for the fundraising that has already begun – he and a friend he plays soccer with, David Knight, received support from the Silverbacks to set up a fundraising table at a recent hockey game, the Cantina Vallarta Restaurant has been raising funds, donations were contributed at a Women Who Wine evening, and other people have talked about plans they’re making to help out.
As if the invasion of Ukraine isn’t enough, Dmytro and Natalia must move out of their rental soon as it’s being sold, his father in Ontario is very sick and his sister there is going through a divorce.
“It’s everything at once. What else? Bring it on,” he said with a wry smile.
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