Ukraine Independence Day celebrated in Chicago with flag raising, sculpture unveiling

Teen from New York using sculpture to help those suffering in ongoing Ukraine-Russia war

Thursday, August 24, 2023
Ukraine Independence Day celebrated in Chicago
Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, Independence Day was celebrated in Chicago Thursday with a flag raising and sculpture unveiling.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Ukraine's Independence Day was recognized Thursday in Chicago.

A Ukraine Flag ceremony marked the nation's 32nd anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union Thursday afternoon in Daley Plaza.

Hundreds of Ukrainian-Americans gathered for the event.

As the war against Russia rages on, this anniversary is a reminder of the cost of freedom.

"While we're speaking right now, there are people putting their lives on the line, thousands of people," artist Mila Ugryn said.

The emotional sounds of a violin reverberated throughout a blistering Daley Plaza, transformed into a unifying cultural hub for Ukraine.

"I left Ukraine the second day after the war started. And it was, I can't even express those feelings," Oleksandra Belinska said.

Belinska said Independence Day once felt like a holiday, but it doesn't any longer, as her countrymen fight for freedom.

"I would like to say thank you to all our heroes that are fighting right now in Ukraine," she said.

Organizers took the opportunity Thursday to call for increased military support for Ukraine's soldiers on the frontlines.

"The U.S. must provide F16 planes, longer range ammunition and all equipment necessary to end this war sooner," said Pavlo Bandriwsky, with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.

President Joe Biden released a statement marking Ukraine's Independence Day, writing in part, "brave Ukrainian women and men are defending Ukraine from assaults on fundamental principles essential to every nation on the planet - sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are showing the world once more that freedom is worth fighting for."

A sea of blue and yellow unites this tight and resilient community, as they pray for peace on Ukraine's independence Day.

"We can sing our songs; we can do our traditions. We can be Ukrainians," Nadia Zhuk said.

A 13-year-old artist also showed off a sculpture.

On Thursday morning, the creator of a Ukraine-inspired sculpture talked about how his project is making waves.

Ryan Hirschhorn of New York created his sculpture years ago. Then, when the war in Ukraine broke out, he decided to use it for good, teaming up with Project C.U.R.E., the world's largest distributor of donated medical supplies, to share it with others to raise money for Ukraine.

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"I really decided that we have to do as much as we possibly can for them because these people are in such a state of need to a point where everybody should be helping," Hirschhorn said.

Hirschhorn calls the sculpture "The Hearts of Ukraine." It's one of three pieces, and has already raised over $100,000 for the country.

"This sculpture symbolize the spirit of Ukraine: Our hearts are open to all the world, and we want to live with peace with all people in the world," said Serhiy Koledov, consul general of Ukraine in Chicago.

The sculpture will be in Chicago for a couple of months, and sits outside the consulate general office on the Near North Side.