As war explodes in Europe, some Canadians are deciding to try to travel to Ukraine to help with the battle and with the mounting humanitarian needs.
Some of them say they are willing to take up arms.
“If it comes to that, it’s OK,” said Haralds Ancens, 31, originally from Latvia and now living in Toronto.
His mother and two sisters live in the Baltic state, which some consider a possible target for aggression by neighbouring Russia.
“I haven’t spoken to them about this because I don’t want them to be worried. Only person who knows that I’m trying to get there is my brother,” Ancens said.
The heavy-duty mechanic speaks Latvian, Russian and English.
He and his wife Pathrysha have visited the Ukrainian Consulate to inquire about assisting.
“We would want to be in Ukraine,” said Pathrysha, 31, who added that her family does not think she should go.
“So many people say, ‘Aren’t you scared?’ or ‘Isn’t that stupid,’” Pathrysha said. “But no, it’s the right thing to do. We should be defending Ukraine in any way that we can.”
They are waiting for word from the Ukrainian Consulate about the best way they might help. They have not ruled out travelling to Poland to volunteer helping refugees.
The embattled country has created an International Legion for the Territorial Defence of Ukraine.
“We know that many people with military and related experiences worldwide seek to join the Ukrainian defence forces,” Kristina Zagorulko wrote in an email from Kyiv, where she says she is helping the government.
“The legion is calling everyone who has any relevant experience for the current situation, is driven by a strong will to fight for peace, is confident they can handle the experience, and is ready to join right now.”
The group has produced a video with narration saying: “Heroes of the world, join the fight for liberty, for human rights, for the free world. Join the foreign legion of Ukraine.”
The Ancenses are aware of the recruitment drive, but they have no military training.
“Ideally, they don’t want civilians,” Pathrysha said. “But it could be anything from bringing them supplies, helping with labour, helping people who have fled or being asked to fight.
“Anything that we can do, we will do it.”
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Haralds said he is disgusted by the bloodshed in Ukraine, but he also fears war could expand into his native Latvia.
“It’s terrible. There are women and kids dying on the streets,” he said.
“I think (Putin) will take over many places if he takes Ukraine. He will rebuild the U.S.S.R.”