Two youths who recently fled the war in Ukraine in search of a better life in Winnipeg were the victims of a violent attack at The Forks on Canada Day, according to a couple who came to their aid.
“It’s something I’ve never experienced before in my life — something that you see on TV. And when you see it in person, it’s something I’ve never seen before,” Jula Zahn said in an interview with CBC on Sunday. It’s absolutely shocking.”
Zaan, 26, and her husband, George Torres, 32, were on their way out of a car with a friend at around 10:30 a.m. Friday when they learned shortly after the attack, which they said had left a 22-year-old man stabbed. He was given a wound in his throat and his 23-year-old friend was killed by pepper spray.
“He was yelling that he needed help. Like, ‘I need help. I need help,'” Torres said.
Torres said the knife was still stuck in the man’s neck.
Winnipeg Police and The Forks officials have confirmed that one person was stabbed and another was sprayed with pepper. Police said nothing more about the attack and did not announce whether any arrests had been made.
He said on Saturday that the Major Crime Unit was still investigating.
The incident marked the latest in a series of violent crimes over the course of a few days at The Forks.
The 22-hectare site in downtown Winnipeg, located at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, is billed as a destination and meeting place and is widely frequented by tourists.
Police said a father and daughter were attacked in a parking lot on June 27 in an attempted robbery, and two men were stabbed outside the main market building early on June 29. In May, a man died after being stabbed in a park on the grounds.
On Friday night, Zain, who had arrived in Canada from Ukraine in 2010, was able to translate, as neither man spoke much English.
“I’m just telling her like, take a breath, … trying to keep her talking,” Torres said. “He’s like, ‘I’m going to die… I’m dying.’ That’s what he’s saying. And he’s pretty much lying in a pool of his own blood right now.”
Torres said he was told they were crossing the street when he was walking side by side with the three men. Torres said that when the Ukrainians turned to apologize, they were attacked and the attackers fled.
Torres estimates that about a minute later Zayn, Torres, and their friend happened to be with them.
trying to pacify the victim
While waiting for paramedics to arrive, Torres said she learned the men were refugees, had only been in Canada for two weeks and, on Canada Day, moved into their downtown Winnipeg apartment.
Zayn said his focus was on trying to keep the stabbing person calm — as well as trying to stay calm.
“But in the back of our heads, at the same time, we’re like, this guy could be dead right now, right here, and there’s nothing we can do,” she said. “So I just tried my best to tell her to calm down, that everything will be okay. Try to stay positive.”
Zain said paramedics and the stabbing person were taken to the hospital soon after.
men want to leave town
Zain said she and the man’s friend had visited him at the hospital on Saturday morning. He told her that he was “feeling fine,” she said. “I think it’s a little bit of a miracle in my mind,” she said.
The first thing they wanted to know, Zahn said, was whether they should stay in Winnipeg.
“‘Where should we go,'” she said he asked. “‘What is the safe zone?'” Zayn said she told them she would take them to different areas of the city – but they wanted to move out of town and potentially move to another province, she said.
“So that’s very unfortunate.”