Toronto (Ontario) - Greater Toronto Area is diverse.
However, there is a distinct part of the city, where Soviet ideology, as well as Russian regime influence are pervaisive.
North York is where many new immigrants from former USSR settle. They often form their own small friendship groups, but some get influenced by the aggressive propaganda of the local Russian regime admirers. This is largely due to the fact that Russian language is commonly used in communication between ethnic groups from former USSR.
The core of the Ukrainian community is located in the western part of Toronto and since Russia occupied Crimea and Donbas (Ukrainian territories), little has been done to increase awareness and participation of Ukrainians and friends of Ukraine in North York. At the same time, the so called "Immortal Regiment" is actively recruiting new members.
In 2015, Ukrainian Canadian Congress did make an attempt to create a bridge between the two communities, by holding a number of meetings with leaders and opinion makers. However, this process did not see any further development and pro-Ukraine residents of North York were left with one option of traveling across the city to attend any pro-Ukraine events or meetings.
On April 24, 2018 Canada-Ukraine International Assistance Fund held the screening of the "Invisible Battalion" documentary in North York, depicting the truth about Russian aggression in Ukraine. This was the first event of this kind, held in North York, since Russia annexed Crimea. The event was part of the documentary's North-American Tour (in partnership with Razom and Ukrainian Canadian Film Festival).
The screening was well attended and quite successful! For some of the attendees, the documentary was an eye opener. For others, this event was an affirmation that Ukrainians in North York were not on their own anymore. That a larger pro-Ukraine movement would welcome and support them, including conducting events where they live. Attendees thanked the brave women-heroines of the documentary, present at the screening. The Q&A period lasted more than an hour.
This important event was widely supported by the local Russian speaking media, who do not condone current policies of the Russian regime.
"To really battle the propaganda, one needs to not be afraid to go and tell the truth where it may be challenged and may not be welcome", - said Mariia Berlinska, documentary producer.
"We are proud to be the pioneers in holding such event in North York. Many more to come. This is the only way to stop the spread of the scourge of Kremlin's disinformation" - stated Antonina Kumka, President of CUIA Fund.
Photos: Roman Bashta