Former premier Ed Stelmach is appalled by the situation in Ukraine.
As a resident of rural Lamont County, Stelmach is a Ukrainian descendent. His grandparents immigrated from a small Ukrainian village and settled in the area in 1898.
He has many Ukrainian friends from the area and during his time as premier, met up with and signed many agreements with communities in Ukraine to create more trade opportunities. Given their connection, it has been quite difficult for many, including Stelmach, to see the attacks from Russia.
"The invasion... the best way you can describe it is barbaric. It's genocide, it's not just against the armed forces but against children, older people, people that have nothing to do with any kind of dispute, they're peace-loving. They certainly enjoyed an independent, democratic country, and now for many their lives will be disrupted forever and we don't know when this is going to end."
He mentioned the first known soldier killed had the last name 'Stelmach.' He didn't know the soldier but said seeing that really shook him because it is possible he could be a distant relative. It reminded him that a lot of families from here don't even know what is happening to their families in Europe.
Stelmach was part of an advisory committee to help send humanitarian aid to Ukraine and spread awareness about what is happening. He noted this war has been ongoing since the invasion of Crimea but he is happy more people are now paying attention.
"This invasion has galvanized people around the world," he said. "People that may have had ties to Alberta or just watching it and saying we have to stand with Ukraine. We can't let this happen. Because if it's Ukraine and he's successful, who's next?"
The province was able to give $1-million to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress just before the attack began. Stelmach said it was a great contribution but Canada also needs to be ready to help a potentially large number of Ukrainian refugees that may want to come to Alberta.
"Maybe they might go back home in two years. No one knows because we don't know if there will be a diplomatic end to this, or if [Vladimir Putin is] going to keep pursuing until such time as other countries stand up and stop it. It's a huge unknown."
Stelmach noted he is happy to see how many people are supporting Ukraine. If anyone wants to send donations, he advises them to be wary of GoFundMe pages and make sure they are legit before giving any money or go through the Canada Ukraine Foundation.