Thanks Linda. I turned the correspondence I’m having with my friend in Lviv into an op-ed piece and circulated it to newspapers.
From Perry Simpson—
His name is Andrew Fesiak. I first met him in late August of 1991. We were both assigned to share a dorm room at Carleton University. All that we had in common was our age and that we both love music. This was my first degree (Political Science), but it was Andrew’s second (Eastern European Studies). His first degree came from the University of Kyiv in Ukraine. We didn’t become fast friends, but had several good times in our year together learning about each other’s lives. Andrew’s parents emigrated from Ukraine to Toronto, so he grew up living the Canadian dream. However, his Ukrainian heritage kept calling him back, and he returned to Ukraine to study. Andrew has an enviable superpower. He can learn languages with a speed and fluidity that almost denies logic. I’d heard him fluently speak Ukrainian, Russian, French, and English, as well as some Greek and Polish. After this year together we lost touch, but I never forgot him or his love of his heritage.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, I reached out to him and the 30+ years washed away. I wanted to know that my old roommate was OK. He completed his PhD and moved to Kyiv, Ukraine permanently. He met and married his wife Olesya, and they now have 2 children. Sophia 15 and Damien 5. Andrew works as a specialist in security, international affairs, ethnicity and nationalism, with a focus on Ukraine and Russia. I knew he’d have a perspective of Russia’s invasion that would be free of disinformation and based on eye-witness accounts.
Right before the invasion, Andrew and his son flew to Toronto to visit his 87 year old father, sadly his mother had passed the year before. He cut their visit short as he knew Russia’s attack was imminent. He was right. The Wednesday of the attack, he and his son waited at Pearson Airport for the 11pm flight, but while sitting there a text informed him that the attacks had just started.
Here is what he shared with me;
March 6, 2022 – “It was 5am in Kyiv and my girls were sleeping, so I called and woke them up. Olesya’s brother came and drove them to his cottage 45km west of Kyiv. His wife, 2 kids and 19-year old nephew drove there separately. We thought that location would be safe since it was away from anything of importance, but the Russians, to be exact, Kydrov’s Chechen forces who are the most brutal cutthroats you could imagine, tried driving to Kyiv but taking country roads that surround that cottage community. So, the Ukrainian forces annihilated them 3.5 km to the west and 4 km south of their location. They saw rockets fly and fighter jets fly very low over their heads. I couldn’t fly to Kyiv since the airspace closed immediately while I was still in Toronto. However, Damien and I still caught the flight to Warsaw. I was hoping to make it across the border by train or car but it just got more and more dangerous and we didn’t want Damien to be in any danger. Had I been alone, I would have gotten there fast since initially it was safe enough there. So, I was stuck in Warsaw and they were stuck at the cottage. Finally, 2 days ago (March 4th), there was a window of opportunity and people started leaving the cottage community in convoys of 10 cars. My family was in the third convoy. The first convoy was shot at and there were casualties. They made it to Truskavets and spent the night there. Then they drove to the border with Hungary and crossed the border by train. In the meantime, I rented a car and drove from Warsaw to Hungary and met them on the other side. We are all now in Warsaw and tomorrow we’ll take the train to Berlin. I have a friend there that is letting us stay in his apartment. So, at least we’ll have a place to stay. This is incredible: we are refugees!”
March 11, 2022 – “Everything is good in Berlin! Just came back from the French school where Sophia and Damien will be attending. Everything is good to go. I’ll be leaving for Lviv to help in the war effort in the next few days.”
Andrew is 52 years old, and he returns to fight. Fight for his home, his family, his heritage and his country.
My wife and I attended Carleton Place’s rally in support of Ukraine the evening of March 11, and beforehand I asked Andrew if there was anything he’d want to tell the crowd, and if I could share his story with anyone who would listen. He wrote: “Tell them that women and children are being targeted as are the elderly, disabled and everyone else. The Russians are trying to terrify everyone into surrendering they know they can’t beat our men, so, they’re picking on the most helpless! Real terrorism and war crimes! Russia has never given a damn about the lives of Russians, never mind anyone else. They hate Ukrainians because we want to be free and not part of their empire. They want to be an empire again but without the industrial, human and agricultural might of Ukraine, it won’t happen. With Ukraine, they hope to be a superpower again. They’ll fail. We will win. Ukrainians will fight for their freedom and democracy. We don’t want to live like the Russians do: as slaves.”
I also follow Andrew’s Twitter and WhatsApp since I deeply trust his information versus that of the war criminal and disinformation spreading Russian President Vladimir Putin. Andrew’s current fear is well-founded. A Russian disinformation arm (MFA Russia @mfa_russia) tweeted “Radical Ukrainian groups under the control of US special services’ representatives have prepared several potential scenarios of using toxic #chemicals to carry out #provocations. Objective – to accuse Russia of chemical weapons use vs civilians.”
I believe Andrew’s response over Russia’s baseless allegation. “The real reason Russian writes trash like this is that Russia itself is preparing for a chemical or biological weapons attack against Ukraine. The Russian army is losing in Ukraine, therefore it will resort to using the most despicable weapons to murder innocent women & kids.”
At the Carleton Place rally in support of Ukraine, one of the speakers addressed the fact that Russia has been inundating its citizens with Putin’s propagandist disinformation for 25 years. This isn’t just a matter of addressing how Russian’s see the last 2 weeks, it’s a matter of breaking down how they see Putin and the world through the megalomaniac’s eyes that has been brainwashed into them for decades. Remember, it was Russia that accused Ukraine of bombing their own maternity hospital in Mariupol’.
I’m still a student of politics on my own time, and asked Andrew to describe, based on his knowledge and experience, why Russia is taking these actions. That’s coming soon! See @AndrewFesiak to follow Andrew on Twitter.
Thank you Perry— Thank you Andrew
Do you have things to donate or can offer a home for the Ukraines coming?
Ukrainian Support Eastern Ontario Facebook
Carebridge Community Support has set up an account for the resettlement of people from Ukraine to Lanark County. Donations can be made via cheque (mention “Ukraine” on the note line, our address is 67 Industrial Dr., Almonte, ON, K0A 1A0), or on our website, https://carebridge.ca/donate (mention “Ukraine” in the text box as you fill in your information). Tax receipts will be issued for donations over $25.
At present we are working with the resettlement group in Carleton Place. The first family is scheduled to arrive in Canada as early as this Sunday. Others will come as soon as possible. Help us welcome these families fleeing the war in their country.