Delaware County residents lined up along Main Street in Delhi to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 24.
Rev. Cathy Schuyler, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Delhi, was dressed head to toe in blue and yellow, the colors of Ukraine’s flag. She said she came to the Ukrainian rally “because I am looking for peace for the the Ukrainians. I pray for Russia to give up and get out of Ukraine and recognize the sovereignty of Ukraine as a nation.”
Jason Sprankle came to the rally because he used to live in Ukraine and it “holds a place in my heart.” He said he was a photojournalist and worked in Ukraine for a year. “A year ago it was heartbreaking to watch the invasion and I thought of all the places and the people I knew there. I have a lot of friends there”
He said he’s “proud of what America has done so far to support them and their mission,” and said he “Looks forward to the day when Russia pulls out and retreats.”
Delhi resident Ann Peet said she came for the same reason. “This war against Ukraine is horrific,” she said. “It’s been tearing me apart.”
She is also a member of the Delaware County Citizens for Refugee Support, which sponsored Friday’s rally.
“When some momentous anniversary comes up it’s important to mark it,” Mina Takahashi said. “Our new Russian friends really wanted to hold this rally to show our solidarity with the Ukrainians.”
Takahashi is a founding member of the Delaware County Citizens for Refugee Support. She said the organization is sponsoring four Russians, Mariia, Boris, Vladimir and Ivan, while they seek asylum in the United States after they fled Russia last year. The four were harassed by police for protesting the war in Ukraine.
Dan Gashler, of Delhi, a member of the organization, said the four have housing until May and are looking for housing for the four for the summer months. He said the group is also trying to find housing for a family from Honduras that is seeking asylum.
Mariia Shemiatina and her husband Boris Shevchuk lived near the Finland border and were also supporters of Alexei Navalny’s opposition to Vladimir Putin’s regime, Dan Gashler of Delhi, said in a previous article.
On Friday, Shevchuk spoke through Gashler’s interpretation, about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He said he was born in a part of Ukraine that has been taken over by Russia.
“Ukrainians are trying to build a progressive, modern country,” Shevchuk said. “Russia’s imperialistic ambitions are thwarting that attempt. I hope that this war can end soon and I will be able to ask for forgiveness in front of Ukrainians for Russia’s desecration of their country. Glory to Ukraine.”
Shemiatina also spoke Friday about her opposition to the war. She said her grandfather and Ukrainian soldiers “fought shoulder to shoulder together in the last great patriotic war against Hitler. They slept together at night in the trenches together. He lost brothers and friends in the war. Today Russia is destroying cities, schools, kindergartens, buildings. Russian soldiers are raping women and children, torturing and killing civilians. Residents and children are forced to move from their homes. For a year, children have slept in shelters terrified in fear of Russian bombs. My husband and I had to run away because we were against the war.”
Another Russian refugee, Sasha Balashov, spoke about the invasion of Ukraine. “We all have a desire to live in peace and be free,” he said. “One person in my country has unrealistic desires above these basic human rights. This person gives false reasoning why Russians should hate Ukrainians. I don’t want to hate Ukrainians and I want to love all the people in the world. I love Ukrainians. Ukrainians are good people. When I came here, the first people to help me were Ukrainian. They have become second parents to me. Our cultures have the same languages. We understand each other, We should fight.”
During the rally, people were able to eat some borscht, a soup popular in Ukraine and Russia, that the Russian refugees made and drink some hot cider.
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