When Svyatik Artemenko signed with Guelph United in 2021, he packed his bag and moved to the Royal City to bolster his budding soccer career.
Growing up in Winnipeg, Artemenko is of Ukrainian descent and has worked hard to move through the tiers of semi-professional soccer - landing a tryout at the western Ukrainian club FK Podylla.
Three days ago Artemenko was told he had made the roster and would be playing for the club.
Two days ago Russia invaded Ukraine, propelling the two European nations into a state of war.
Spending Friday night mentally preparing for war, Artemenko, now living in the city of Khmelnytskyi, is en route to Odessa for military training.
“It is not mandatory for me to enlist, because I am a Canadian citizen at the moment,” said Artemenko over the phone from Ukraine on Friday. “But, I think it is really unfair for me to be living here because I did come here for a professional soccer tryout and I did end up signing a contract.
"But it is really unfair for me to turn my back on my own people, the people that I grew up with, and just turn around and leave them. I think I need to go protect my own country and defend what’s right, the borders, the freedom of my country and my family that are here.”
He will then be on the front lines repelling Russian aggressors from the country he loves, putting everything on the line to protect his family.
Artemenko is not alone in the desire to drive back the advancing Russian military, as Ukrainian able-bodied citizens are taking up arms to defend their country.
“When I went to the military base to enlist there were lineups in which I had to wait almost two hours,” said Artemenko. “I got lucky because I came pretty early, so I didn't have to wait that long. But once I walked out the lineups were almost two or three hours long.”
As for why people are waiting to line up, Artemenko said it is as simple as people wanting to protect their families.
"There is absolutely no fear in the crowd," said Artemenko. "If you were to walk in here you would not be able to tell, you would not be able to smell or see fear whatsoever. You feel pride."
Ukraine is currently evacuating children and women from regions that have seen shelling and missile strikes.
Eastern European countries boarding Ukraine have begun accepting refugees, as an estimated 100,000 people have fled their homes, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
Speaking during a press conference Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canadian government will be prioritizing immigration applications for Ukrainians.
“Our support for Ukraine, democracy and human rights remains unwavering,” said Trudeau.
Despite the words of solidarity, Artemenko said Canada can do more to help the people of Ukraine who are in desperate need of aid from NATO members.
“This is not just a war against Ukraine, it is a war against all of Europe,” said Artemenko.
“For people on the outside, it doesn't really touch the people on the outside, but if for some reason people on the outside have any images of soldiers of locations of soldiers or military troops, please do not repost it or post it anywhere as that gives Russian forces access to those forces access to those pictures and they can pinpoint where those soldiers are located and that will blow their cover.”