Hundreds gathered with Ukrainian Flags at Independence Mall on Sunday to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was a sea of blue and yellow, as many came to stand up for their loved ones who simultaneously sheltered in place all throughout Ukraine, while Russian forces bomb their neighborhoods.
Some said they’ve lost contact with relatives because Russian forces have knocked out power grids.
“It’s been 26 hours and I haven’t heard from [my grandmother],” Anastasia Dovbik said.
“My own grandmother is stuck in Melitopol (southeastern Ukraine). The Russian army has completely invaded their town. They’re not allowed to leave. There are Russian army checkpoints. The medicine and food stores are looted. There’s chaos,” Dovbik said.
Dovbik, 24, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and she said she has family in Belarus and Ukraine. She spent most of her childhood in West Philadelphia, which she said was a sizable Eastern Europe community.
Last night, she said she barely got any sleep and has lost her appetite.
Many of her loved ones are without food, water, and other basic necessities, she said.
“A lot of aid is not going to a lot of specific smaller towns, but we want to raise awareness. We want at least some aid, a proportion of aid to go to Southeast Ukraine.”
The rally was organized by Ulana Mazurkevich, the Ukrainian American Community Committee, and the Ukrainian Human Rights Committee.
“We want them in Ukraine to see that we are standing, that we are speaking for them, that we are demonstrating for them. That’s what they want,” Mazurkevich said. “And then we’re going to go to Washington and demand more.”
Several Ukrainian Americans spoke at the rally, with many calling for countries to boycott Russian oil companies and to employ stronger sanctions.
“It’s a global demonstration taking place…the world is watching and the world’s leaders are watching, and they have to respond,” Mazurkevich said.
In the wake of uncertainty, many who attended said they would not lose their resolve. Many said prayers for their loved ones, and called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be tried for war crimes.
“I feel like I’m looking at a lot of my distant relatives,” Dovbik said about attending the rally.
“What’s more powerful is seeing nobody crying. Everyone’s just having strong faith and everyone wants to help in any way, shape, or form.”