Hundreds gathered at Philadelphia’s City Hall on Thursday to raise the flag of Ukraine in celebration of the country’s 32nd year of independence.
Ukrainian veterans raised the nation’s flag, commemorating Ukraine’s Independence Day and the continued fight for its freedom in the midst of the Russian invasion. This day marks when Ukraine officially left the Soviet Union in 1991 and became an independent country.
Mayor Jim Kenney thanked not only those in attendance, but the more than 50,000 Philadelphians of Ukrainian descent for their contributions to the city.
“For more than a century, Ukrainian Americans have contributed to the diversity and richness of our great city, creating vibrant religious and cultural institutions, businesses and civic organizations, and all the neighborhoods where Ukrainian Americans settled,” Kenney said. “Ukrainian Americans have maintained a strong affection for their native land, even as they have integrated into the fabric of Philadelphia.”
Iryna Mazur, the honorary consul of Ukraine to Philadelphia, addressed the crowd on the 547th day since Russian forces invaded the nation. She said as people celebrated Ukraine’s Day of Independence, it was being done with “great pain and sorrow.”
“This genocidal war has touched and affected every Ukrainian family because every one of us has brothers, sisters, has friends and acquaintances who are currently in the trenches under constant shelling, paying the highest price for stability in Europe and in the world… We must stay strong in survival mode and continue to help those ones who need our help,” Mazur said.
She told the crowd to stay strong and stay united as the war against Russia continues.
“The future depends on all of us,” Mazur said. “We, the people, are the independence. You, every one of you are the independence. Every action you take against this war is independence.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the nation’s people for their continued resistance from the Russian invasion in a statement. President Biden said the country will continue “to support Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against Russia’s aggression.”
As reported by the New York Times, the total number of Ukrainian and Russian troops killed or wounded since the war began is nearing 500,000. According to officials, Russia’s military casualties are approaching 300,000, while Ukraine’s are close to 70,000. Russians outnumber Ukrainians on the battlefield almost three to one.
On Sunday, the Ukrainian Folk Festival will take place at the Ukrainian American Sport Center in Horsham. Tickets are $15 and proceeds will go towards humanitarian efforts for Ukrainians affected by the war.
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