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Local Ukrainian business leaders sending armoured vests home to help protect forces

'Putin has been hiding in some bunker but Zelenskyy is in Kyiv with his people. I've completely changed my opinion about him. He used to be an actor and I was not sure about him as the president but he has proven he is a real leader. I am proud of him.'
2022 03 01 Ukraine Canada flag (Campaigne)
The flag of Ukraine is flown in solidarity next to the Canadian flag at North Bay City Hall

Dmytro Korotkykh says it has been a harrowing experience to have to watch from afar as his home country is invaded by troops and bombarded from the air but it does not compare to the extreme peril the lives of his family and friends in Ukraine — and millions of others living in harm's way — are enduring at the hands of Vladimir Putin's Russian military forces.

Korotkykh and his business partners at Canada Meat Group in North Bay have banded together to help Ukraine's territorial defence personnel by outfitting as many as they can with body armour vests. These forces are comprised of many civilians — some with military experience — who have taken up arms to defend Ukraine. 

The vests are in the midst of being purchased and will be shipped to eastern Europe, through the embassy, where Korotkykh says they will make their way to the defending forces in advance positions who need them most.

"A couple of my friends are in the territorial defence," says Korotkykh, " they protect their homes, their communities, their cities. Everyone is doing what they can. My mother-in-law is knitting nets for tanks. My brother delivers food and medicine for kids in need."

See related: Canada wants ICC investigation of Russia, says Foreign Affairs Minister

The Ukrainian entrepreneur admits to having had reservations about the election of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy but he has come around on that subject.

"You know, Putin has been hiding in some bunker but Zelenskyy is in Kyiv with his people," Korotkykh observes. "I've completely changed my opinion about him. He used to be an actor and I was not sure about him as the president but he has proven he is a real leader. I am proud of him, he is really good."

Korotkykh says Zelenskyy's communication skills — he has been updating the country via live feeds multiple times daily — have contributed to the defence of the country.

In Kyiv, the capital city of five million, Korotkykh has heard first-hand from his network of family and friends of residents of "people spending their days and nights in their basements or underground or in shelters."

Korotkykh is the vice-president of business development and sales for Canada Meat Group. The company launched operations from the Airport Industrial Park with a sod-turning ceremony in 2018 and he says he and his partners are enjoying their time here in North Bay. Between the three business partners, there are 14 family members with Ukrainian heritage living in town.

He shares their new community in North Bay has given the families a warm welcome and they are overwhelmed by the response to their efforts to collect first aid kits, clothing, and non-perishable food items for people in Ukraine. These items can be dropped off at Canada Meat Group, located at 65 Roundel Rd.

See also: Peace vigil for Ukraine planned for North Bay

Korotkykh says these types of humanitarian efforts will be crucial in the coming days and weeks as supply lines are further crippled by military actions. He assures those looking to make a donation the supplies will make it to their intended destinations through the company's shipping channels. As far as financial support for Ukraine, Korotkykh suggests using only official channels through the national embassy website.

"Our local community supports us," shares Korotkykh, "and they are as shocked as we are by this."

And: City of North Bay raises Ukrainian flag

Korotkykh has ties to Dnipro, a city of one million in central Ukraine, where he was born, and his brother and his family and his wife's family live there still. He says, other than a few outages, communications have remained steady between Canada and the families in Ukraine. 

"The situation in Dnipro is scary but stable," says Korotkykh. "They have had a couple of air alarms and a couple of missiles but not much, thank God."

See: Canadian phone companies waive charges for Ukraine calls, texts

Even the option to seek refuge in a neighbouring country such as Poland has become an arduous journey for Ukrainians, Korotkykh is hearing, taking several days instead of hours due to the flood of people fleeing. It is estimated hundreds of thousands are stuck in customs along the borders.

The Korotkykhs also lived in Kyiv in the past decade and their three children were born there before they moved to Latvia, and then to Canada. Many of the images they have been seeing in local online newspapers and television are being reported on from familiar places.

"The situation in Kyiv is terrible. Missiles, bombs — they bomb not only military targets but civilian infrastructure — storage areas for gas companies. You can't really stop these fires and it leads to ecological problems."

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Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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