Statement from FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt
What a difference a year makes! Today, the world is not the same as it was on February 24, 2022 when Russia launched an unprovoked, unjustified and barbaric war on Ukraine, threatening far more than the fate of its western neighbour. As Canadians and other freedom-loving people across the globe mark this somber anniversary in solidarity with the besieged and courageous Ukrainian nation, we are overwhelmed by a mix of thoughts and emotions. Indeed, there’s much to grieve and much from which to derive strength and hope.
First, we mourn the incalculable loss of life caused by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in his satanic quest to conquer Ukraine, at any price. Over the past 12 months, inspired by the Kremlin’s genocidal talk, Russia has committed atrocities against Ukrainian civilians on a massive scale. In addition to all those killed or wounded, millions of other Ukrainians are deeply traumatized by Russia’s savage actions and the losses and misery they’ve suffered. As Jews, we have learned from history the threat that evil poses when left unchecked.
With its military onslaught from the air, land and sea often hitting residential and other civilian buildings, Moscow has shown itself hell-bent on carrying out as much carnage and destruction in Ukraine as possible. In the process, it has obliterated hospitals, schools, theatres, cultural treasures, apartment complexes, infrastructure and industrial centres. Whole towns and cities have been razed to the ground. Russia’s invasion has also caused the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Eight million Ukrainians have had to flee their country, with many more internally displaced. On a humanitarian level, we are witnessing a disaster of epic proportions.
And yet, in this horrifically dark chapter of the 21st century, there are sources of light and reasons for hope. A year ago, when Russian tanks first rumbled across the border as part of Putin’s full-scale military assault, most experts and observers expected Ukraine to fall within weeks, if not days. Instead, Ukraine, through the bravery, fortitude and resilience of its people, both on the battlefield and home front, with help from the West, has preserved its independent statehood. Despite its untold suffering, the country still stands tall under the inspiring leadership of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, valiantly defending its sovereignty, democracy, freedom and sense of nationhood. Their resolve, along with the unity of western countries in supporting Ukraine, are cause for celebration amid all the sadness. To be sure, despite its successes against Russian forces, Ukraine faces much more adversity as the war rages on with no one knowing just how far Putin will go to try to achieve his demonic aims.
The war has demonstrated the importance of allyship, as western nations have come to the assistance of Ukraine. We in Canada owe the Ukrainians our continuing support and solidarity, especially as this is also a war against the West. So much is at stake. We shudder to think what could happen to the world order if we were to allow Ukraine to fall. Its suffering presents a moral challenge to all of us. Through Putin’s wanton aggression and brutality, he has trampled on basic human rights and the western values of freedom and democracy. We can’t allow his war of attrition to weaken our outrage and commitment to help Ukraine.
As Tom Nichols wrote this week in The Atlantic, “The war in Ukraine is the final shovel of dirt on the grave of any optimism about the world order that was born with the fall of Soviet Communism. Now we are faced with the long grind of defeating Moscow’s armies and eventually rebuilding a better world.”
For our part, at FSWC, we remain resolute in our support of Ukraine, in our own modest way. We’re proud to have initiated an emergency fund last spring, along with other initiatives, to support Ukrainian refugees while also standing with Canada’s Ukrainian community.
On this grim anniversary, we’re reminded, yet again, of Simon Wiesenthal’s astute and timeless words: “Freedom is not a gift from heaven. You have to fight for it every day.”
Slava Ukraini! (Glory to Ukraine) in their righteous fight for freedom.
L: FSWC's Michael Levitt participating in a rally in Toronto in support of Ukraine against Russia's invasion
R: Michael Levitt in Poland supporting the delivery of aid to Ukrainian refugees, funded by FSWC's Emergency Ukrainian Refugee Relief Fund