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Support for Ukraine hits close to home for Port Moody mayor, councillors

Port Moody council endorsed a call for support of Ukraine, that includes lighting city hall in blue and yellow until at least March 18
Thousands of supporters rallied outside of the Vancouver Art Gallery to show solidarity with Ukraine.

A show of support by Port Moody council for the people of Ukraine isn’t just a way for the city to jump into the story that’s dominated international headlines for two weeks.

It’s personal.

Mayor Rob Vagramov was born in Cherkasy, Ukraine, a city of more than 270,000 in the central part of the country. It’s where his mother is from, and where his parents settled after fleeing Tbilisi in nearby Georgia when that country was embroiled in a fierce civil war.

Tuesday, council approved a motion by Coun. Amy Lubik to light city hall  in blue and yellow — the colours of Ukraine’s flag — until at least March 18, in solidarity with the country that’s currently at war after its borders were breached by Russian troops. It also endorsed several initiatives put forth by Vagramov, including:

  • the waiver of any fees up to $3,000 for the rental of city facilities by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress of British Columbia for fundraising efforts
  • calls to the Canadian government to support the Ukrainian people at home and abroad with things like: expedited immigration and refugee processing for those fleeing the war; safe military transport for them; increased military support; maximum financial sanctions against the Russian Federation, but not for industries relation to medicine or food; the immediate divestment of public funds and private money supporting Russian firms and an immediate halt on imports from Russia.
  • similar divestment of provincial funds, as well as halting imports like energy and raw materials from Russia that could be used in provincial and municipal infrastructure projects

Vagramov, speaking at the online meeting with a Ukrainian flag on the wall behind him, said the motions represent a small, but vital, way for the city to show it stands with all Ukrainians.

“I am glad we are able to do any tiny action toward supporting the Ukrainian cause,” he told the Tri-City News, adding it’s also a difficult time for many Russians who don’t support the invasion because they too may have connections with Ukraine.

For Coun. Meghan Lahti, the war also hits close to home. Her voice wavering with emotion, she told council her son is in the military and she fears he could be deployed to Ukraine should the war escalate.

“This is a really scary time we’re in,” she said.

Lubik said she has friends in Ukraine after she lived there for several months many years ago and she worries for their safety.

“There’s so much we would like to do.”

Vagramov, whose family left Ukraine when he was young because they feared the implications on the country of the Soviet Union’s collapse, said he was touched by council’s support, as well as the calls received from several representatives of the Ukrainian community during the public input portion of the meeting.

One of those calls was from Port Moody-Coquitlam MP Bonita Zarrillo, who urged people to donate to the Canadian Red Cross for war relief efforts. She also called upon Canadians to sign a special parliamentary petition seeking the removal of RTV, a Russian TV station, from Canadian airwaves, a move later endorsed by councillors.

“My heart goes out to all the Ukrainian families,” Zarrillo said.