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

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — The mother of a Quebec man who died fighting Russian forces in Ukraine says her son’s « courage and big heart » made him a hero.

The funeral of Émile-Antoine Roy-Sirois was celebrated Friday in the Ukrainian church of the Assumption-of-the-Bienheureuse-Vierge-Marie, in Montreal.

Marie-France Sirois said her son died along with three other foreign soldiers during a bombardment in the Dombass region on July 18.

“They died as heroes, each supporting the other until the end and sharing the same convictions, she launched to the gathered crowd. The will to defend women and children and to speak out against injustice was part of my son’s DNA. I’m not the first to say that. »

Mrs. Sirois described her 31-year-old son as a generous, kind and funny person. Fight in Ukraine? It was like « a call he couldn’t ignore. » According to her, Émile-Antoine was a kind of « philosopher-knight ».

“Émile wanted to make a difference and I believe he succeeded. His courage and his big heart made him a hero, but what consoles me the most is to know that he was happy when he died, to have acted up to his convictions.

A silver urn and a soldier’s helmet bearing the first name « Émile » had been placed on a table placed in front of the faithful. Two photographs of the deceased, surrounded by sunflowers, had also been installed there.

The crowd gathered in the church applauded the young man. Many in attendance wore traditional Ukrainian clothing. Others had brought flags from Quebec, Canada or Ukraine.

Eugene Czolij, the honorary consul of Ukraine in Montreal, said Mr. Roy-Sirois died a hero while trying to rescue an injured comrade.

« Know that heroes like your son Émile-Antoine never die, because their memory is eternal, » he told the soldier’s mother and other members of his family.

19-year-old Arsenii Pivtorak said before the funeral that he had not known Mr Roy-Sirois during his lifetime, but he wanted to attend the ceremony to thank him for defending Ukraine.

« To see a foreigner with no connection to Ukraine laying down his life for my people, for freedom, then it’s the least we can do to be here. »

Mr. Czolij says other Canadians are in Ukraine to fight Russian troops, but he does not know the exact number.

Global Affairs Canada cannot say how many Canadians have died or been injured in Ukraine since the conflict began, but the department is urging citizens not to travel there.

“We run a great risk if we go to Ukraine, especially to engage in combat. Our ability to provide consular services is severely limited,” Global Affairs Canada wrote in an email to The Canadian Press.

Global Affairs Canada is also urging Canadians in Ukraine to leave the country if it is safe to do so or, if not, to seek shelter.

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