The following letter from members of the Ukrainian community came in response to Emanu-El’s letter of support and presence at the rally on February 27. Donations for humanitarian aid to Ukraine can be made to the Red Cross and these donations will be matched by the Federal Government.
Link to the Red Cross to donate: https://donate.redcross.ca/page/100227/donate/1?_ga=2.78469969.499698267.1645823002-203722709.1645823002&_gl=1gh1wt_gaMjAzNzIyNzA5LjE2NDU4MjMwMDI._ga_376D8LHM0R*MTY0NTg5NTczNy4yLjAuMTY0NTg5NTczNy4w&fbclid=IwAR1i63dvtOrxYHeNLQLCPsHFZ28UXE32RUHakmz4AaGwtlKFqq3WMCt40Mc
Letter of thanks:
Dear Rabbi Harry Brechner, Samuel Godfrey and the entire congregation of Temple Emanu-El,
My wife, Nataliia Kuksa, and I are very grateful to hear of your support for Ukraine and would like to express our personal thanks to the Temple Emanu-El congregation.
This is a terrifying moment for so many of our family and friends. We are on the phone every day with friends who have lost their homes and are sleeping with the masses in subway shelters with no sanitation while being bombed from above. Russian missiles and artillery are targeting hospitals, kindergartens, and apartment buildings. All men between the ages of 18-60 are being mobilized into the military. However, many adult women are also choosing to pick up a gun and fight. The government has released instructions on social media on how to make a molotov cocktail and exactly where to throw it at armored vehicles for maximum effect. People are hanging on to their dreams of democracy and freedom from tyranny and persecution.
Having the Jewish community’s support is especially meaningful to us because of a shared history of surviving persecution and genocide, particularly in the mid-20th century. Under the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian language, culture, and costumes were all banned from public life with penalties of imprisonment and death. The artificial famine created by Joseph Stalin, known as the Holodomor, killed somewhere between 4-10 million Ukrainians between 1931-1932 in an attempt to eradicate all memory of Ukrainian people. In the small village of Skvira, my wife’s grandparents survived by eating decaying walnuts that they dug up from the ground–the ones on their tree along with everything else had been taken by the Soviets. Cannibalism became normal as the only sustenance available was the bodies of neighbors lying in the street.
But I cannot emphasize enough that this is not, primarily, a war of race, culture, or religion—but of the Ukrainian people’s wish to repel the tyranny of a brutal authoritarian regime.
Most of the resistance in Kharkiv and Kyiv are primarily Russian speakers. Ukrainian is used in schools and government, yes, but Russian is the language you would expect to speak at a Kyiv or Kharkiv family home, supermarket, or social setting. Most Ukrainians are proud of their ties to the Slavic world. Nataliia’s mother is from the north of Russia, has a Russian passport, and has lived, worked, and studied in Ukraine for 31 years–before Ukraine broke away from the Soviet Union. Yet it is the citizens of Kyiv and Kharkiv who are mostly sacrificing themselves for a chance to remain a part of western democracy. Meanwhile, thousands of Russians in Moscow are protesting against the war, suffering severe consequences once forced into Russian prisons.
Ukraine chose to give up all its nuclear armaments in 1994 with the guarantee that it would be protected from foreign invasion. And let’s face it, if they had not done so there would probably be a much smaller chance of a Russian invasion today. By helping Ukraine overcome this outrageous attack, we are showing the world how the democratic nations will continue to work in solidarity with those that are attempting to prevent nuclear war and uphold the principles of compassion, truth, and freedom.
If you could please forward this message to family and friends, I would be forever grateful. Also, please forward the link to the Canadian Red Cross. Any donations will be matched by the Canadian government. And please let people know that there will be a demonstration for Ukraine on this Sunday, February 27, at 12:30 at the BC Legislature Building.
Thank you for your support.
Daniel Jordan & Nataliia Kuksa
The original letter sent by Rabbi Harry and Sam Godfrey on behalf of Emanu-El:
25 February 2022
St. George Parish, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
Ukrainian Cultural Centre
To the Ukrainian community of Victoria,
It is with horror, dismay and sadness that members of Congregation Emanu-El are watching the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian armed forces.
And we mourn, along with you, the loss of life and the traumatization of innocent citizens across Ukraine.
Ukrainians, be they Catholic, Orthodox or Jewish, are all suffering now and our thoughts and prayers go out to them and to the extended Ukrainian community of Victoria, which must be consumed with worry about friends and family in your homeland.
Please know that our community is with your community at this difficult time, and if we can be of assistance to you, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Sam Godfrey, President
Rabbi Harry Brechner