The mother of a Quebecer killed in Ukraine says her son was a hero

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MONTREAL — The mother of a Quebec man killed last month in Ukraine fighting Russian forces said at a memorial service Friday that her son’s « courage and big heart » made him a hero.

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Marie-France Sirois said during a service in Montreal that her son Emile-Antoine Roy-Sirois and three other foreign volunteer soldiers died together under shelling in Ukraine’s Donbass region on July 18.

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“They died as heroes, supporting each other to the end and sharing the same convictions,” Sirois told the crowd gathered at the Ukrainian parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Montreal.

« The desire to protect women and children and to denounce injustices was part of my son’s DNA, I’m not the first to say that. »

Sirois described his 31-year-old son as a kind, funny and generous person who felt « a call he couldn’t ignore » to join the forces fighting in Ukraine. She describes him as a kind of “philosopher knight” with chivalrous values ​​reminiscent of another era.

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« Emile wanted to make a difference and I believe he succeeded, » she said.

« He is a hero for his courage and his big heart, but what comforts me the most is that I know he was happy until the end, acting up to his convictions. »

A silver urn and a military helmet bearing the name « Emile » sat on a table at the front of the church. Two framed portraits also sat on the table, which was flanked by bright yellow sunflowers.

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Sirois received a standing ovation from the crowd gathered on the benches, many of whom were wearing traditional Ukrainian clothing or displaying Quebec, Canadian or Ukrainian flags.

Eugène Czolij, the honorary consul of Ukraine in Montreal, told the crowd that Roy-Sirois had died a hero after trying to rescue an injured colleague.

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« Know that heroes like your son Emile-Antoine will never die, because their memories remain eternal, » he told Roy-Sirois’ mother and other family members.

He said in an interview that the service was organized in such a way that Roy-Sirois’ family would feel the gratitude of Ukrainians living in Montreal.

Czolij said his organization helped repatriate the fighter’s remains from Ukraine in time for service.

Arsenii Pivtorak, 19, said before the service that he did not know Roy-Sirois but wanted to thank him for defending Ukraine. Pivtorak said he also wanted to go fight alongside his cousin and other family members, but was unable to due to his work and study commitments.

« To see this from a foreigner who had no connection to Ukraine, sacrificing his life for my people, for freedom, the least I can do is come here, » he told AFP. exterior of the church.

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Michael Shwec, the head of the Quebec branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, said Roy-Sirois would go down in history as a « hero of Ukraine. »

“We have a saying in Ukrainian that heroes never die,” he said. « So his name, his legacy will go down in history. »

Shwec said it’s important for Canada to continue supporting Ukraine as the war moves from a sprint to a marathon, but individual volunteers aren’t necessarily the best solution.

« Ukraine does not ask for foreign soldiers, » he said. « What they’re asking for are weapons, and that’s what we keep asking the government. »

Czolij said he knows other Canadians were fighting in Ukraine, but he doesn’t know how many joined the country’s forces against Russia.

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