A man from Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) who died while fighting in Ukraine is being remembered as someone who always offered a helping hand.
Family and friends of Austin Lathlin-Bercier, 25, say he was inspired to volunteer shortly after the war in Ukraine first broke out. Shockwaves were sent through OCN after learning Monday a community member died while fighting in Ukraine.
“We mourn with our community. We lost the young man fighting overseas. Fighting for something he believed in,” OCN Councillor Edwin Jebb said.
Austin’s sister Faith Lathlin-Bercier said he was known to help those who needed it the most – Ukrainians being no exception.
In March 2022, after volunteering for different causes around the world – he enlisted to fight in Ukraine with an international legion. He spent the next year and a half there.
“He went to Ukraine because he saw how many innocent women and children were being killed. He’s always been protective of women, children and those who can’t defend themselves,” Faith wrote in an email to CTV.
“He told me when he was done fighting he wanted to come back to our reserve (Opaskwayak Cree Nation) and become someone who could teach the young children of our community.”
On Thursday – he sent his mother what is now the last text between the two – “Thanks mom all is good over here.”
The Embassy of Ukraine in Canada tells CTV News he went missing in action in the Donetsk region on Saturday, Nov. 11.
The family was told on Monday he was MIA, and later that day they were told he died.
”He believed in fair play and helping other people. So you could say he died for his beliefs you know. His beliefs of helping other people,” Jebb said.
Faith tells CTV News her brother’s remains can’t be sent back home yet – as there is too much fighting in the area. It could take anywhere from days to months.
OCN lowered its flag Monday night in honour of Austin. It says when the family is ready, it will be working with them on a funeral or memorial.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Manitoba is sending a letter of condolences to OCN.
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