By Colin McGregor
A sunny Sunday afternoon in May, May 8th, and the wide sidewalks of Ste. Catherine Street West were jam packed with pedestrians for the nicest day of the year up to that point. Shoppers and gawkers alike seemed relaxed and unfazed by the cares of the world.
But a couple of hundred metres away, at the Place du Canada in front of the Sun Life Building, about 40 Russians were demonstrating against the bloody war their native homeland is waging in Ukraine.
There were speeches in Russian, a couple of TV cameras, and a group of very earnest and concerned people, some waving flags and placards.
Are they worried about Russian secret police getting back at them for this sort of assembly? “If we were in Russia, yes,” said a flag-waving protestor named Ilya. “But they can’t do anything to us here. In Russia maybe… but I don’t care.”
Protestors and passers-by alike were advised to contribute to grassroots local organizations to help out the war-ravaged country. “With small initiatives we know that the money is getting through,” said Varvara, who carried a placard. “We can see pictures of the money and the aid arriving.” Community-based organizations send in the money and goods, then provide proof of where that contribution has gone, Varvara said.
The afternoon demonstration lasted about an hour and a half.
The mood was peaceful. “We have to keep talking,” said Varvara. “Otherwise it’s just statistics and numbers and people forget the war behind it. We get used to it. But when people hear little stories, little dramas, especially about the young people who are suffering, then you understand that there are thousands that this is happening to.”