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The Ukrainian national anthem soared in the snowy air northeast of Edmonton on Friday as the community of Lamont came together to pray and raise a blue and yellow flag.

The city and county have Ukrainian roots dating back over 130 years when the first settlers arrived. In 2018, the locals adopted the name “The Cradle of Ukrainian Settlement”.

Ukraine’s state emergency service said more than 2,000 civilians have died in the Russian invasion so far and around 700,000 have fled the country.

“It’s hard to watch it every day,” said former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach, who lives in the area. “The bombing continues. Please do all you can to support. Right now it’s cash donations.”

For Terry Eleniak, the connection between Ukraine and Alberta goes back 131 years.

“My great-grandfather, my great-gito, was the first Ukrainian to come to Canada,” Eleniuk said, adding that the snow and cold couldn’t stop him from attending.

“They didn’t have to twist my arm twice. My roots are here and my roots will continue,” he said.

Lamont, a town of about 1,800, closed roads and streamed the ceremony live on its Facebook page.

“It’s been really difficult for everyone here to just watch events unfold. Yeah, it’s been really heartbreaking for everyone,” Mayor Kirk Perrin said.

People gathered in Lamont, Alberta. raise the Ukrainian flag on March 4, 2022. (Darcy Seaton/CTV News Edmonton)

“TRY TO DO SOMETHING PROACTIVE HERE”

“Ukrainians have always been very strong, and one of the things Ukrainians do is look for an excuse to get together,” Lamont County Warden David Diduck said.

Lamont has a sister village in Ukraine called Nebyliv, where many of the hometown settlers originated from.

“We understand that they were subjected to military attacks,” Diduck said, adding that it was difficult to get confirmed information.

Hazel Anaka was there to collect donations for the Canada Ukraine Foundation.

“The impulse is to stay home glued to the TV, watching the horror. But I think it helps if we do something tangible,” she said.

“It’s important for the rest of the world to know that we haven’t forgotten, and we’re trying to do something proactive here.”

With files from Jessica Robb of CTV News Edmonton and The Associated Press