Islanders applaud Ukraine president’s calls for assistance

MANITOULIN—As the war in Ukraine continues to rage, President Volodymyr Zelensky strives to obtain more much-needed help, including weapons of war and the installation of a no-fly zone over his beleaguered country. He appealed to Canada on March 15 with an address to parliament. (President Zelensky has been digitally addressing national lawmakers throughout the western world and their allies. Over the weekend, he spoke to the Israeli parliament).

Expositor readers will be familiar with the Manitoulin Canadian-Ukraine Szewczyk family, and they asked for their raction to Mr. Zelensky’s speech.

John Szewczyk was highly impressed with the Ukrainian leader’s talk and agreed that more help is needed. He stops short, however, at the implementation of a no-fly zone. “I do not trust Russian president (Vladimir) Putin for one second,” he said. “This evil autocrat has shown repeatedly that you cannot believe anything he says, and he will stop at nothing to bring countries down. I don’t think we can take a chance of causing a worldwide war. The events in Ukraine devastate me, and I fear for cousins that I have there. I have reached out to Red Cross Ukraine for information but have not received any news, which is understandable. My heart breaks for the Ukrainian people.”

Luba (Szewczyk) Switzer has high praise for the Ukrainian leader. “President Zelensky made all Ukrainians proud back in 2019 when he refused to be bullied,” she spelled out. “He has excelled since. His leadership and determination have only strengthened the Ukrainian resolve. Slava Ukraina and President Zelensky. The world is with you.”

Ms. Switzer’s sister, Natalie, is not only proud of Mr. Zelensky, but she is pointing her anger at Russia and her heartbreaking love for the people of Ukraine to good use. Like all members of her family, she has donated funds for the worldwide humanitarian effort but has also participated in the Sudbury Ukrainian rally and has started a drive for goods. She has collected three large boxes of emergency wool blankets, medical supplies, diapers, baby food, toys, dog food and treats, clothes, non-perishable foodstuffs, and expired medications. This material will be brought to the Ukrainian Centre in Sudbury where it will be sorted and shipped to Hamilton and then on to Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Her respect for President Zelensky is immense. In speaking of her reaction to his speech, she said, “his words are not only powerful but also thought-provoking. As he speaks from the heart and pleads for assistance, he also reminds us of how fragile our freedom and democracy are and to never take them for granted as what happened in Ukraine could happen in any country at any time. I am thankful for Zelensky’s courage and inspiring leadership that has united the world to support Ukraine.”

Jen Hearn of Sudbury is one of Natalie’s best friends. She too was impressed with the speech he gave to the Canadian Parliament and said, “If you haven’t had a chance to listen to President Zelensky’s address to our country, I urge you to do so. He asks Canadians to imagine a world where bombs and missiles have been fired on our home and native land like the bombardment that happens across Ukraine daily. His speech optimized the plight of the Ukrainian people and the strength and courage it takes every day to get through this horrific war. I pray for the Ukrainians as they fight for their land, their language and their freedom. Glory to Ukraine.”

Lorne (Kostuik) Kostik of Manitowaning was quick to phone the writer about the Szewczyk article in last week’s Expositor, saying, “I watched President Zelensky’s video plea to the governments of Britain, Canada and the US but reading The Expositor brought it home. I read it twice. Words are inadequate. I don’t know what to say.”

“Regrettably, the Ukrainian people, the Russian people, the whole world are all suffering,” said Mr. Kostik. “The God of Heaven and earth is watching. There will be an accounting.”

For over 40 years, Mr. Szewczyk has been good friends with Rick Taylor of Foleyet. Mr. Taylor immediately put The Expositor’s Szewczyk article on Facebook as soon as he read it. He has watched both the Canadian and American speeches by president Zelensky. “Zelensky wants Canada and the US to feel for the Ukrainian people,” he told The Expositor. “What if 300 of our children were killed and innocents died, yet the bombs still fall? Everyday. And yes, thank you for your support, weapons, material, humanitarian aid and sanctions. Thank you for everything that you have done, but it has not stopped the explosions and death.”

“Bombs keep falling and Ukrainians keep dying,” said Mr. Taylor. “It is not enough. Ukraine is asking Canada and the US to take action to stop the threat in the air. Zelensky received applause, lots of hands clapping, but no one reached for a pen to make it happen. Putin has broken all ethics by disguising his ambitions with false words. He lied outright about his intentions and all along blamed the west for their transgressions against Russia. NATO is the culprit? If that is the case, why is he not attacking NATO? Ukraine never attacked Russia. The Szewczyk interview clearly shows that Ukrainians are not Russians. Putin has zero claims over their ethnicity because of what the Russians did in the past, and this is laid out in the article as it happened well before NATO was established. And imagine the image of Johnny Szewczyk’s dad, if he were alive, voluntarily going back to fight for his country?”

“This speaks volumes as young Russian soldiers have not figured out why they are in Ukraine fighting against a neighbour that did them no harm,” said Mr. Taylor. “This war will not benefit Putin and will be a historic disaster. It will not benefit the Russian People. Russia will become a hungry, more isolated, cold, unfeeling land that no one will trust again. Because of one man.”

Lynn Filion of Val Caron and her husband Moe are also great friends of Mr. Szewczyk and Ms. Filion too posted last week’s Expositor article on Facebook. “I was in tears before President Zelensky even started his speech,” she said. “I could sense the urgency of it all. I felt as if was saying, ‘This is it. This is my opportunity to tell Canadians firsthand the horrors in Ukraine.’ One could not help but notice the desperation in his voice as he referred to attacks on our nation’s landmarks, asking us to imagine how we would feel. He managed to pull at our heartstrings while keeping a brave face for his people. He is a true leader.”

Mr. Szewczyk has had extensive conversations with other family members. Sister-in-law Miriam Bardswich of Cobourg is an extensive traveler, a retired teacher and editor and the co-author of 12 books for students. “There have been great, even beloved leaders in history,” she told The Expositor. “One thinks of Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Augustus Caesar, who ushered in 200 years of relative peace. But there have also been the despots who increased their power at the expense of others: Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Khan and others. Now there is Putin who threatens not only the Ukrainian people but also his own. Standing against the tyrant is the Ukrainian president Zelensky and his people. He is the hero of our time.”

Toni (Bardswich) Nelson is another sister-in-law of Mr. Szewczyk. She is a retired CPA, a contributor to Patch, an Orange County online paper, a community advocate, and a philanthropic volunteer who lives in Capistrano Beach, California with her husband, Garry. “This universe sometimes uses unlikely heroes to do great things. Zelensky fits the paradigm-a plain-spoken actor and comedian who has emerged as an extraordinary leader with an immense talent for appealing to not only his own people but millions of us around the world. I was very impressed with his speech to the US Congress. We rarely hear someone speak with such passion and verse, hitting all our emotional triggers, urging us to show up for peace. I love his U24 concept. Imagine a world where sane, peace-loving nations stand together, vowing to show up within 24 hours to help each other during manmade or natural disasters. Zelensky’s heartfelt plea stands in such stark contrast to Putin’s evil bullying and blatant disregard for basic human rights. I pray the world will rally to his side and not fade away once compassion fatigue sets in. if the rest of us have an ounce of the courage of the people of Ukraine, Putin will eventually face ruin. This is a high-stakes game between David and Goliath. David gives me hope. And Zelensky’s first name? Volodymyr? It means king of peace.’