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EDITORIAL: Ukrainian flags a sign of city's big heart

'The Ukrainian flags across St. Albert are a reminder, that we are a community that cares, and that there is still much we can do to help.'

St. Albert has a big heart.

In the weeks since the Ukraine attacks began, Ukrainian flags have begun to appear — on people's vehicles, in their gardens, on fences, and windows, and front doors.

It's tough not to notice how much St. Albert residents care.

The gesture is a welcome signal to those arriving from Ukraine to stay with local host families who have kindly opened their homes, and their lives.

It's also a sign of how well St. Albert comes together, as a community, to help.

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the fire at Citadel Mews — a devastating day for the residents of the seniors' complex and their families. The entire city rushed in, in the moment, and in the days following, with blankets, and water, and cellphones, and food, and support of all kinds. 

That night, as firefighters battled the blaze, many strangers stood along with the seniors displaced by the flames who watched, in silence — together — from the safety of the sidewalk, offering only solidarity and kindness.

Those people, our close neighbours, received our full care and concern.

A year later, St. Albert, once again, is standing up for our neighbours of a global kind, in as many ways as our community can muster.

The outpouring of empathy is an amazing thing to watch, and be a part of.

Local restaurant Taste of Ukraine took to the kitchen with love March 20 to sell food and raise funds for humanitarian aid. More than a thousand people lined up down the street that frigid day, braving the wind and sideways snow to purchase meals in support. The business, whose own staff volunteered their time and hard work for the effort, raised a total of $50,120 in a week.

Former MLA and St. Albert resident Thomas Lukaszuk, along with former premier Ed Stelmach, spearheaded an effort at the end of March to gather a lengthy list of critical items — food, clothing, medical aid supplies, and equipment for first responders and search and rescue teams — to send overseas. The endeavour grew, along with the generosity of those involved, to include donations of cube vans, computers, jet fuel, landing fees, ground crews, a warehouse, and a Boeing 787. The plane was filled and flown over to help the millions displaced by the war in Ukraine.

Lukaszuk is at it again, as reported in a Gazette story in today's paper. This time, instead of filling another plane, which presents a logistical challenge, the group is hoping to fill the coffers of aid organizations still in need of funds. After the announcement Saturday of the deaths of two volunteer drivers killed by Russians while delivering relief supplies in the port city of Mariupol, Lukaszuk is even more driven to affect positive change.

"Russians intercept; we double down," he said.

Organizations such as the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and United for Ukraine (through the Ed Stelmach Community Foundation) still need our support in the form of monetary donations which can be used to purchase materials overseas, closer to where they are needed, thereby removing the need for costly flights or shipping containers from Canada.

We still have an opportunity to show up.

The Ukrainian flags across St. Albert are a reminder, that we are a community that cares, and that there is still much we can do to help.

Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette’s editorial board.