A social, cultural, and educational hub in Vancouver's Russian community was targeted by vandals expressing support for Ukraine following Russia's invasion of the nation.
Blue and yellow paint were splattered on the front doors of the Russian Community Centre at 2114 W 4th Avenue in Kitsilano. The venue, which offers courses, performances, and meeting space is also known as the "Russian Theatre" or "Russian Hall."
"We are a non-profit cultural centre focused on spreading the joys of Russian culture since 1956," explains the RCC's website.
The RCC has been at its location since 1958 when the organization moved into the historic Kitsilano Theatre, a movie house that was going dark.
The paint vandalism appears to have been first spotted in the light of day on March 5, and presumably, the incident took place Friday night.
The Vancouver Police Department issued a statement late Saturday morning regarding the incident:
"VPD sent investigators to the community centre, near Arbutus Street and West 4th Avenue, Saturday morning, following reports that someone had defaced the building with blue and yellow paint. The vandalism likely occurred overnight," confirmed authorities, adding: "No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing."
An image of the paint-splattered building was shared on Twitter Saturday morning by Brandon Yan, who has since deleted his tweet due to the nature of the responses the tweet drew from "anonymous trolls."
'We're a non-political group' says Russian Community Centre rep
RCC Board Chair Ariadna McKenna was on site at the hall Saturday.
"We don't support what's going on in Europe," McKenna told Vancouver Is Awesome. "We support our membership, and many of them have friends and family who are in terrible situations. And for them to come here and to experience this [vandalism] in Canada was unbelievable and really uncalled for."
McKenna added she would ask the vandals why they would do such a thing to an organization "that has done no harm and only does good for our city here."
"We're a non-political group," remarked McKenna, noting the RCC's multi-national membership includes Ukrainians as well. "We don't choose who comes in here - we accept anybody and everybody."
"I don't know why [these vandals] would do this," said McKenna, as someone behind her attempted to scrape paint from the sidewalk with a shovel. "And if they have so much energy, maybe they should put it into [doing] good, rather than [something] destructive."
Locals are also dismayed that the RCC is bearing the brunt of ire when it comes to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
"I've attended Ukrainian dance seminars there and have known them to be friends of the Ukrainian Canadian community," said Twitter user @lennajkay in response to Yan's tweet about taking down the vandalism image.
"We are citizens of the world and of course, we are devastated by what is happening in Ukraine and we are sad to see this happening in our community," Jane McFadden, Executive Director of the Kitsilano West 4th Ave BIA told V.I.A. via email Saturday morning.
McFadden further elaborated by phone that she has reached out to the group of volunteers who run the facility to guide them in the next steps in having the paint removed. Like all of Vancouver's nearly two dozen business improvement associations, the Kitsilano West 4th Ave has a contract with a graffiti removal business as part of the BIA's aim is to keep the area safe and free from vandalism.
An act of vandalism like this was top of mind for McFadden since the invasion of Ukraine began just over a week ago, who said she had anticipated something like this happening but had yet to see it in the neighbourhood until this weekend.
"I understand that people are mad, frustrated and want to be heard, I respect that but we all need to remember that the hand of friendship is more powerful than an act like this," added McFadden.