Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Russian millitary bombing attacks in Kharkiv hit hometown of UNBC student

Vova Pluzhnikov says Ukrainians drawing courage from president Volodymyr Zelensky in their fight against cruel Russian regime

With the not-too-distant sound of bombs exploding in the city of Kharkiv, where Russian military forces are massing in preparation for what is believed to be a major ground offensive in Eastern Ukraine, Vova Pluzhnikov’s father and 84-year-old grandfather plant a vegetable garden to grow food for them and their neighbours on land that surrounds their rural cabin.

In western Ukraine, Pluzhnikov’s mother and sister-in-law grow increasingly worried with news that four cruise missiles have been shot down over the city of Lviv, an area that has so far been spared the ravages of the seven-week-old war.

While in another part of the besieged country, Anton Pluzhnikov, Vova’s 33-year-old brother, conscripted into the Ukraine army, awaits his next assignment, hoping he won’t become another victim of a conflict that has so far killed 3,000 Ukrainian troops.

Half a world away in Prince George, 26-year-old Vova Pluzhnikov, a UNBC commerce student who came to Canada six years ago to play university basketball for the Timberwolves, prays for an end to the senseless annihilation of his people and the crushing of their culture in the Russian invasion. He holds faith for the restoration of peace in his homeland and a long-term solution that will guarantee Ukraine’s future as a sovereign nation.

Pluzhnikov was among about 100 walkers who gathered Saturday afternoon at Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park’s new pavilion near Exploration Place to join the Prince George Solidarity Walk For Ukraine. The two-and-a-half-hour event gave an audience to people who wanted to express their thoughts about the war in Ukraine, its effect on their families and friends and how it threatens world peace. The walkers followed a route along the Fraser River pathway to Yalenka Ukrainian Hall  and then returned to the park.  

“The atrocities and images we’ve been seeing from there have gotten out of line, no one expected Russia to be that cruel towards the civilians,” Pluzhnikov said. “It’s important to be brave and be willing to see the truth right now and not turn away from those brutal images. You kind of have to open your eyes and accept the reality that those crazy and disgusting things are happening now. They’re similar to World War 2 stories we hear from our grandparents and it’s just important to realize that those things are happening and we need to raise awareness and make sure everyone knows about it.

“We need to work hard to support Ukraine in any way we can because that’s the kind of front line that’s working hard to save democracy in the world. It’s hard to believe that there is some people that could be worse than Nazis but I guess the Russians found a way to raise that bar. Just the things they’re dong are not acceptable by any standards and they should be prosecuted and should be stopped.”

Pluzhnikov is about to graduate UNBC with a commerce degree and has already started his internship with the Royal Bank of Canada as a banking adviser. On March 8, he organized the 44 Kilometres for 44 Million fundraising run through the streets of Prince George which raised more than $76,000 for the Red Cross relief mission to help the estimated 10 million Ukrainians displaced by the war.

He's thankful for the support his run received and he’s hopeful Canadians will continue to support fundraising initiatives that help the people of his country.

“Its important to talk about current events and spread awareness because world of mouth is really powerful and the more people know about what’s happening the bigger the impact,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to help and it’s important to not limit yourself to one donation or one shared post because this is an ongoing war and as we know it’s been going on for 50 days now and a one-time donation or one-time conversation with a friend about the war is not enough.”

Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine, is a city caught in the crosshairs of relentless air attacks that have since the start of the war Feb. 24, hit nearly 1,700 residential buildings, including 75 schools, 56 kindergartens and 19 hospitals, resulting in more than 400 deaths and thousands more injuries in the city of 1.4 million. Pluzhnikov has seen images of the city’s central square after it was blown up and the university basketball gym where he used to play reduced to ruins after it was shelled.

“It seems like that part of the country is being targeted and unfortunately we might see more destruction in Kharkiv, but from what I hear and what I see, the reliance of the residents of Kharkiv, it’s on another level,” said Pluzhnikov. “People are working hard to clean up the city, planting flowers, and making sure when people are ready to come back to Kharkiv and come back to their normal lives, the city is ready to welcome them back.

“I just see that people are mentally strong and they’re ready for whatever is coming their way. If it means more destruction, they’re ready for that as well but if means it’s time to rebuild the city then that’s what they’re going to do. Also, I hear a lot of people are working so hard to provide humanitarian help. So many volunteers are doing really great work supporting people in need. Seeing those things kind of motivates me and makes me feel proud of where I came from and the city where I grew up.”

Pluzhnikov cannot overstate the effect of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and the courage and strength he instills in his people with his willingness to fight to save his country.

“I’m glad we have him as our president right now,” said Pluzhnikov. “Who knows what would have happened to our country is there was someone else. I’m thankful he was willing to step and do whatever it takes to keep our citizens safe and be a force against a cruel nation like Russia is right now.”

He said Zelensky foresaw the mass exodus of refugees, mostly women, children and seniors, to neighbouring countries and in the months leading up to the invasion he worked out a framework to have those countries accept them. So far, 4.8 million Ukrainians have fled the country.

“I’m really thankful there were countries and leaders willing to listen to Zelensky back then and obviously right now it’s great to see the countries fulfilling their promises and see those things are happening,” he said. “Ten million people have been displaced from their homes right now, which is almost a quarter of the population and I’m thankful they have place to go to.”