Freezing temperatures didn’t stop more than 1,000 people to assemble at the Saint Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church for a rally in the heart of the Ukrainian Village neighborhood in the third biggest city of the United States and mark the first year since Russia’s repeat invasion of Ukraine.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, two national lawmakers, and community leaders spoke to a crowd that lined north Oakley Boulevard with members of the Klych [beckon] nonprofit advocacy group holding up 365 placards of war images to symbolize each day of the year.
Not only has “Ukraine won the hearts and souls of Chicago, never before has a human event such as this [war] mesmerized global attention,” said Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak.
The reason why Ukraine prevail in the war is that “Ukraine adds freedom, Russia doesn’t,” said Ihor Diaczun, head of the Illinois division of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), an umbrella organization that advocates for Ukrainians in the U.S.
He continued: “Freedom is in our DNA…Ukraine will win if it keeps getting weapons – Russia is just a ‘paper tiger’.”
Mykola Kulkol, 27, of Mykolayiv said before the all-out invasion that he was a Russian speaker and had Russian friends.
“Now, I hate Russians and speak Ukrainian,” he said and whose father currently serves in the 79th Air Assault Brigade. Kulkol’s mother is an asylum seeker in Germany.
“I remember calling my parents one year ago in Mykolayiv from Chicago and hearing explosions in the background on the phone,” he said.
Lightfoot, who is running for re-election this month, showed the crowd a sticker of Ukraine she received last year and has kept as a reminder in her personal car.
She called Kremlin autocrat Vladimir Putin “a criminal” and said if “Ukraine falls, then democracy will fall everywhere in the world.”
House of Representative Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) said he wants the war to end sooner rather than later and in Ukraine’s favor.
“I don’t want to come back here and talk about a second anniversary, I want to come back to talk about victory and more about Russia paying reparations,” he stated.
The head of the Klych, Liliia Popovych, said the war, which is entering its ninth year, has taught Ukrainians a new meaning of the question, “how are you?”
It means, “are you safe…mentally and physically?” She added that “Ukraine is fighting for all the civilized world.”
The following day, the national blue-and-yellow flag of Ukraine was unfurled in a flag-raising ceremony that was jointly held by the Organization of Four Freedoms for Ukraine and Ukrainian American Veterans of Illinois on west Grand Avenue. It was advertised as the largest Ukrainian flag in the U.S.
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