Not a minute goes by that Ukrainian-Canadians aren’t watching the "horrifying" siege their homeland is under as the Russian invasion sends thousands fleeing on foot and by car, they say.

The invasion entered its second day Friday, getting closer to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv as shelling tore through a local apartment building and destroyed bridges and even schools.

"There's a general feeling of horror because of this unprecedented, vicious, unprovoked military aggression by Russia against Ukraine," said Eugene Czolij, honorary consul of Ukraine in Montreal.

The attack "is attempting to inflict as much pain and suffering [as possible], not only on the military but in the civilian population, with airstrikes in major cities indiscriminately, bombing the cities," he said.

"So it's this total disdain for human life. That is horrifying to all of us."

Czolij was born in Montreal and is the former president of the Ukrainian World Congress, a non-profit organization representing the diaspora across the globe. He's also the president of a nonprofit called Ukraine 2050.

He said he has many friends living in Ukraine with whom he's keeping in contact. 

"They're saying that it's shocking when they wake up in the morning and see a missile in the middle of a road," he said.

"And when we see, even a few days before this military aggression, an airstrike against a kindergarten [school], they're obviously horrified as we are all with the viciousness of this totally unprovoked aggression by Russia against Ukraine."

He said there is room for Canada to do more to help the Ukrainian government in the war effort by offering support to enforce the no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace. Russia also needs to be pulled from the international Swift payment system, he added, to further choke the country's economy. 


More than 1.5 million Ukrainians call Canada home and there are more than 43,000 living in Quebec, including Natalia Fedosieieva.

She has been living in Montreal for 15 years and has many family members living in Ukraine, including her in-laws and her uncle, as well as a cousin who she said just fled from Kyiv.

“I'm calling them every day and everyone is very stressed, of course," she said.

"However, I can see that they are trying to be calm down, to calm down, and not to panic, because I think this is the worst thing in this case."

She said her uncle is trying to remain positive in the hopes that the Ukrainian army will push back and successfully defend their country.

On Friday, a group of people, including those of Russian descent, braved an afternoon blizzard to protest at the Russian consulate in Montreal to condemn the attacks in Ukraine. 

"It's terrifying, honestly. I wish I could constantly be on a phone call with everybody I know in Ukraine, just to know where they are, what is going on," said one of the protesters. 

Part of their message was meant for the Canadian government, with some calling for Canada to throw more support behind Ukraine than the sanctions already announced, particularly by helping to arm Ukrainian soldiers so they can help defend their homeland. 


At Zytynsky's Deli in Rosemont, the 100-year-old shop has become a focal point for the Ukrainian community since Russia launched the invasion.

“My family is sad, everyone is full of tension,” said Angel Zytynsky, whose grandfather opened the deli.

“Everyone is coming in the store and saying, ‘Bon courage, Angel!’ Everyone is full of tension.”

That tension is hitting close to home for Greg Bedik, president of the St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cultural Association, who still has family in Ukraine.

“It’s horrible. Some of my aunts and uncles have moved from the country to the city to avoid the bombs… some are still in the city,” he said.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress is expected to hold a demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine on Sunday at 2 p.m. in downtown Montreal.

--With files from CTV Montreal's Daniel J. Rowe and Andrew Brennan