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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at McGill chapter.

I am Ukrainian Canadian; my grandparents came to Canada in their youth and eventually started their families here. I haven’t had the chance to visit Ukraine, yet my heart aches as Russian missiles destroy cities I’ve never been to, killing and injuring people I’ve never met. Perhaps it’s just decent human empathy. Perhaps, it’s something deeper. So many critical pieces of my life are related to my Ukrainian heritage, and as the world turns its attention to Ukraine, I have turned inward to the traditions that form the bonds among my family, friends, and community.

I was part of a Ukrainian folk-dance group from the age of 4 until 18. Not only was I surrounded by the language, but by a culture embodied in beautiful forms of dance, intricate costumes, lively music, and of course, a vibrant community of people. My group travelled to perform at various Ukrainian and multicultural festivals in Canada and the U.S., with the goal of sharing this traditional art form, being around people with similar backgrounds and experiences, and strengthening our ties with our heritage.

My mom’s favourite hobby is decorating traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs, called pysanky. Every year around this time she sets up her kistkas (wax tools), an array of dyes, and a couple of candles to decorate a dozen eggs. It can take her hours per egg to create the intricate, symbolic designs. Vines, for example, signify new life and the rebirth of nature, flowers symbolize love and beauty, and wheat sheafs represent wishes for a bountiful harvest – for which Ukraine is very well known.

As with any culture, food is an absolutely essential component. We have Sviata Vecheria (Holy Supper) on Christmas Eve featuring twelve meatless dishes that vary from household to household, but often include kutia (a wheat and poppy seed porridge), borscht (beet soup), varenyky (perogies), and holobtsi (cabbage rolls). Every Easter, per my baba’s (grandma’s) recipe, I make paska: a sweet egg bread that adorns the centers of Easter baskets, surrounded by meats and cheeses. The baskets are brought to church to be blessed, and later enjoyed for Easter lunch.

I’ve been to countless Ukrainian gatherings and festivals in my life, but nothing beats the collective spirit that I’ve experienced while marching alongside other Ukrainian Canadians (and everyone else in support) at protests over the last few weeks. The unified demonstration of our anger towards the aggressor, as well as our frustration at the neutrality and inaction of major international organizations, bring us closer together. This new weekly tradition of mine has elicited the most overwhelming feelings of hope, sorrow, and most of all, pride.

Looking back on my upbringing, I am so thankful that I was taught to appreciate the traditions that have persisted over the centuries, and that my grandparents and other immigrants have carried over to Canada. Although I’ve never been to Ukraine, I am Ukrainian. My family is luckily safe in Canada, but my soul aches for my friends and community members who are fleeing or fighting in Ukraine right now. A nation is made of much more than its physical territory, but as we’ve seen in the last few weeks, national pride is what makes that territory worth fighting for.

If you wish to donate to the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine right now, here are some reputable Canadian organizations to consider:

Canada-Ukraine Foundation https://www.cufoundation.ca/

Friends of Ukraine Defence Forces Fund https://www.fudffund.ca/

Unite with Ukraine https://www.unitewithukraine.com/

And for Ukraine-sourced social media resources, check out these Instagram accounts:



Julia is a third-year student at McGill majoring in pharmacology and minoring in biotechnology. Her hobbies include playing piano, listening to all kinds of music, and exploring new coffee shops.