: BBC: Canadian-Ukrainian relations as thick as blood?

15:54 Jul. 11, 2016

BBC: Canadian-Ukrainian relations as thick as blood?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) is welcomed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (L) during an official ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine on July 11, 2016. (Getty Images)

Tom Burridge claims Ukraine and Canada have a long history together 

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has arrived in Kiev where he will sign a free trade deal with the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Mr Trudeau has just committed troops to a Nato mission in Latvia, in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine - Canada is seen as both a pivotal and personal ally for Ukraine.

Read also Canada's PM arrives in Kyiv

Canadians have sent money to the families of dead Ukrainian soldiers, like 42-year-old Andriy Borodyanyk, who was a biology teacher and a single parent before he was killed by a mortar, fired by Russian-backed separatists, in August 2015.

When the war broke out in the east of Ukraine in the spring of 2014, Canadian NGOs rallied to provide winter boots and uniforms for a skeletal Ukrainian military, which had suffered years of post-Soviet neglect.

Since then the Friends of Ukraine Defence Forces Fund, a Toronto-based NGO, has raised two million Canadian dollars (USD 1.5m; £1.2m). More recently the money has been used to buy body armour, vehicles, water purification systems and medical kits for Ukrainian soldiers.

But perhaps the most vivid example of Canadian help can be seen through the Ukrainian men who have been irreparably scarred, both physically and mentally, by the conflict.

In the face of a non-existent rehabilitation system in Ukraine, the League of Ukrainian-Canadian Women set up a project called Guardian Angels Ukraine.

Ukrainian doctors were sent to Canada to visit rehabilitation clinics. Canadian physiotherapists and occupational therapists travelled to Ukraine to train colleagues there.

Read also Ukraine and Canada ink Free Trade Agreement in Kyiv

A striking symbol of Canadian support for a Ukraine at war is a new rehabilitation centre, complete with a gym and a specialist psychological unit on the edge of Kiev.

The impressive influx of money, morale and expertise from a country 7,000km away is explained by the fact that Ukrainian-Canadian relations are as thick as blood.

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