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Prince George Ukrainian refugees fear for families as winter approaches

“Right now winter is coming and I guess we will have problems with the electric power station because the Russians will attack them again.”
Three weeks after they arrived in Prince George, Illya Zhukovskyy and Anastasiia Biliaeva attended a vigil on a cold night at Prince George city hall Feb. 24 to mark the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of their Ukrainian homeland.

The coming winter in Ukraine is adding a chill to the hearts of two refugees in Prince George.

University student Anastasiia Biliaeva came to Prince George from Ukraine on Feb. 4 with her partner, Ilya Zhukovskyy. She’s completing her studies virtually online while he works on a pipeline project as an ecologist.

At the time the war began they were living in Mykolaiv, a Black Sea port city of about a half-million, located between Odesa and Kherson, which remains one of the hotspots of the conflict.

“It’s the same, bad, nothing changes,” said Zhukovskyy. “Right now winter is coming and I guess we will have problems with the electric power station because the Russians will attack them again.”

Zhukovskyy’s mom and step-sister are in Mykolaiv and narrowly escaped after his apartment was shelled and demolished in a fire. Biliaeva’s parents, sister and grandfather are still in the city but all have visas to leave the country on short notice if the situation becomes too dangerous.

“I don’t see any sense to stay there without power and heating and our city is still without water so it’s not easy to live there,” Biliaeva said. “We don’t have half of our city because Kherson was so close to us, so they had great opportunity to throw bombs every day many times. All the universities, a lot of hotels and schools and houses and our main government administration building is destroyed.

“It happened right after the war began so it is still destroyed and it hasn’t been (rebuilt) because they are afraid it will be destroyed again. They are afraid to ask people to work there because it is really dangerous. Many people died last time and they don’t want it to happen again.”

On Sunday, Canada pledged $33 million as part of a multinational effort to provide a short- and medium-range air defence missile system to protect Ukraine against missile and drone attacks.

The war that began Feb. 24, 2022 when the Russian military launched its invasion continues with no signs of peaceful solution in sight.

For the 220 Ukrainian refugees living in Prince George and their family members and friends they left behind there’s no end to the torment as they watch their country continue to suffer the terror of missile and drone attacks and sleepless nights for residents waiting in bomb shelters.