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Vandalism of New West home reported to Provincial Hate Crime Unit

Shock and anger as Sapperton home flying Ukrainian flag targeted with swastika graffiti
Under investigation: A Sapperton home was targeted by vandalism that saw someone spraypaint a black swastika on the front the home, which is flying a Ukrainian flag. photo Julie MacLellan

A New Westminster home flying a Ukrainian flag has been targeted with hateful graffiti.

A neighbour knocked on Steve Makuch and Julie MacLellan’s door on Monday morning to inform them that their Sapperton home had been vandalized.

“Our neighbour from across the street says, ‘Hey, you may want to look at your house; it looks like you’ve been graffitied,’” Makuch said. “So Julie looked outside and found a swastika, about a two-by-two-foot swastika in black spray paint, on the stucco wall of our house.”

Seeing a symbol often associated with Nazis painted on the front of his home left Makuch both shocked and angry.

“We’ve been here for almost two decades, without any incident, anything like this,” he said. “So, I can only deduce that it was spurred on by me flying the Ukrainian flag.”

Makuch said he’s been flying the Ukrainian flag on his house for nearly a year, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. His grandparents came to Canada from Ukraine in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

“I can’t say I’m fluent in the language, but I’ve grown up in that sort of ethnic culture,” he said. “I identify ethnically as Ukrainian, so I have a feeling towards my ethnic heritage and historical homeland. And so that’s why I fly my flag.”

The couple called the New Westminster Police Department’s non-emergency line, and soon after, an officer and a reserve constable were at their door. MacLellan, the assistant editor of the Record and Burnaby Now newspapers, and Makuch, who works in IT, told police they knew of no reason their home would be targeted.

MacLellan acknowledged her work gives her a measure of community profile but said she doubts the graffiti had anything to do with her work as a reporter.

“Yes, I’m a reporter, but I’m not writing the kind of stories that would usually generate that kind of attention,” said MacLellan, who covers primarily education, arts and real estate for the Record.

Both MacLellan and Makuch believe the high-visibility location of their home simply made them an easy target.

“We are on a busy street, and there are lots of people who walk by there,” Makuch said. “So we think it was a convenient crime of opportunity for this type of activity type of thing.”

New Westminster police are investigating the vandalism, which is believed to have occurred between the evening of Sunday, May 21 and the morning of Monday, May 22. Police have canvassed the area for CCTV footage.

“During investigations such as this one, it is not uncommon for front-line patrol officers to notify our partners at the Provincial Hate Crime Unit,” said NWPD spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Leaver. “This is a cowardly act, and the residents of New Westminster will not be intimidated.”

After police left his home, Makuch got to work trying to remove the graffiti – no easy feat on stucco.

“I tried doing some cleanup. It’s reduced it a little, but it’s still plainly obvious,” he said. “We’ve hung up a Canadian flag in front of it.”

Until Makuch can figure out a way to remove the graffiti, the spray-painted symbol will remain hidden by the Canadian flag. And the Ukrainian flag continues to fly in front of the family’s home.

“Over the past couple mornings, I’ve gone out to just check to make sure that someone didn’t like tear down our Canadian flag that’s covering it, or they didn’t touch the Ukrainian flag,” he said. “The only reason I’m thinking that we got a swastika was because I was flying the Ukrainian flag.”