George Vnoucek and his wife Betty. George landed in Canada in 1968 and eventually moved to Nelson in 1972, where he has lived ever since. Photo: Tyler Harper

George Vnoucek and his wife Betty. George landed in Canada in 1968 and eventually moved to Nelson in 1972, where he has lived ever since. Photo: Tyler Harper

2022 YEAR IN REVIEW: Three Nelson connections to the Ukraine war

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was felt locally

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the Nelson Star published three stories about connections between the war and Nelson.

In May we interviewed Oleksandra and Serhii Hlushchenko, who had only been in Nelson for a few days after leaving their home in Ukraine with their seven-year-old twins.

They told a terrifying story of travelling for weeks across their country, trying to escape bombs and soldiers.

The family were guests in the home of Tanya Finley and Brent Holowaychuk when they arrived in Nelson. They were obviously disoriented from the war and by the fast transition to a foreign country and culture, but already determined to make a life here for themselves and their kids.

Now the family has their own house, both parents have jobs, and they have received generous help from the community.

Tanya Finley, left, with Oleksandra and Serhii Hlushchenko and their twin boys, from left, Oleksii (Lesha) and Oleksandr (Sasha), in March, 2022, a few days after their arrival in Canada. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Tanya Finley, left, with Oleksandra and Serhii Hlushchenko and their twin boys, from left, Oleksii (Lesha) and Oleksandr (Sasha), in March, 2022, a few days after their arrival in Canada. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

In March, we reported the story of George Vnoucek, a Nelson resident who left Czechoslovakia as a young man in 1968 after Russia invaded his country. He remembers the tanks and the protests in the streets and people opening fire on crowds.

When Russian troops entered Ukraine on Feb. 24, Vnoucek was haunted by memories of 1968. He said he wished the Czechs had rebelled as the Ukrainians are doing now, but he conceded they would have been defeated.

He said when he watches the news reports from Ukraine or those in Canada where convoys of people protested COVID-19 mandates, he wondered if the word freedom has lost the significance it held for him and those who once lived in Czechoslovakia.

“Please wake up,” he said. “Wake up. Because you don’t know the true meaning of freedom.”

Alicia Maslechko, who grew up in Nelson and lives in Vancouver, at a street demonstration in Vancouver on the day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Photo: Submitted

Alicia Maslechko, who grew up in Nelson and lives in Vancouver, at a street demonstration in Vancouver on the day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Photo: Submitted

Alecia Maslechko was on the streets of Vancouver for a demonstration in support of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the day of the invasion.

Her grandfather, Bill Maslechko of Nelson, gets daily updates about the war from family members in Ukraine.

Bill said he is proud of Alecia, who, since she was a small child, has embraced her roots and followed Ukrainian culture.

Alecia, 27, who grew up in Nelson and now lives in Vancouver, has researched and developed a family tree populated by hundreds of relatives, and created an extensive network of Ukrainian friends and cousins on social media.

She was deeply moved by the Feb. 24 street gathering in Vancouver.

“Hearing so many people speaking Ukrainian and wearing the scarves and the headdresses, actually made me very emotional,” she said.

READ MORE:

‘All we had was our children’: A Ukrainian family’s harrowing escape from the war to Nelson

A Nelson man fled Soviet oppression. Over 50 years later, he finds he hasn’t truly escaped it

Amid acts of war, Nelson woman reflects on Ukraine in the eyes of her grandparents



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

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