Nearly nine months after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, we’ve undoubtedly started to think less about the conflict.
But Remembrance Day marks a good time to devote some thought to the struggles of the people in the Ukraine, whose ancestors helped build the country and province in which we enjoy living.
Remembrance Day is intended to pay tribute to the veterans who have helped defend our values and the way of life and standard of living with which we are blessed.
We tend to think on this day more of the world wars from the last century, and their clearly defined victories against the forces of tyranny and oppression.
However, there has been a more recent and far longer war, two decades long, in which Canadians served — in Afghanistan, which ended badly last year with a withdrawal and no clear cause for celebration.
But the sacrifices made in Afghanistan are just as real as those in other conflicts, whether they be injury, mental health effects or lives lost. A much smaller number of Canadians (158) died in Afghanistan than in the Second World War (more than 45,000) and the First World War (more than (61,000). That does not diminish the suffering of families who have lost a loved one.
Yet it’s only human nature to want a well-defined ending and some sort of clear victory.
Even though Canada is not fighting in Ukraine, it is supporting the Ukrainian people as they struggle, sometimes with remarkable success, against the unprovoked invasion by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
Despite what some conspiracy theorists and a few American politicians and commentators suggest, this conflict features a clear villain in Putin.
And it’s taking a tragic toll on a democratic nation, which should always have our support. Ukraine is doing nothing wrong other than trying to pursue an independent existence.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed the deaths of 6,430 civilians as of Oct. 30 as a result of the Russian invasion, including 402 children. Most believe the actual number is much higher.
Various estimates suggest tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides have also perished, and the UN estimates as many as 14 million Ukrainians have been displaced.
It’s an assault on a democracy in Europe. Canada might well have sent troops if not for the fear of escalating a conflict started by a tyrant who cares nothing about the loss of human life.
So, in addition to those who have made sacrifices to defend our own country, let’s also acknowledge this Remembrance Day those who continue to sacrifice in that fight against tyranny.
But the forces of oppression are not just limited to the autocrats who wreak destruction and death.
The democracy defended by our veterans faces a constant assault online, with states like Russia interfering with elections, as a Putin ally admitted this week.
And there are those who undermine democracy by promoting false claims of rigged and stolen elections, as we just witnessed this week in the American midterm vote.
Republican candidates endorsed by defeated former president Donald Trump echoed his loss in the 2020 election was engineered. Many candidates endorsed by Trump, thankfully, suffered losses this week.
But it shows that the assault on democracy, which so many Canadians have died defending, is ongoing and that the fight to defend it extends beyond the battlefield.
The attack on Ukraine’s democracy is also an attack on our democracy and our values, for whom so many have shed their blood.
The further we get from the Second World War, the less relevance it seems to have; the number of living veterans who fought in it dwindles every year. And, with it, Remembrance Day seems to hold less significance.
But this year we saw stark evidence that the war they fought is sadly still raging.
So it’s vital that we remember the sacrifices made this year as we see the carnage that continues in the fight for the same values and freedom.
Phil Tank is the digital opinion editor at the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
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