Hundreds gather in Chicago to mark 1 year since Russia invaded Ukraine

ByJessica D'Onofrio and Christian Piekos and Stephanie Wade WLS logo
Saturday, February 25, 2023
Hundreds gather in Chicago to mark 1 year since Russia invaded Ukraine
One year after Russia invaded Ukraine, hundreds gathered in Ukrainian Village, Chicago, to mark the somber anniversary and vow to never surrender.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hundreds gathered in Chicago's Ukrainian Village neighborhood Friday evening to mark one year since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Chicago is home to thousands of people from Ukraine or with ties to the country.

On the steps of St. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Church, people wrapped in blue and yellow flags held 365 posters to represent the past 365 days Ukraine has endured Russian attacks.

"Last year when this all started, everybody was here trying to rally as a community. And it was, homemade signs and what can we do? This is going to be over fast, whichever way it's going to go. And here we stand a year later. But look at our support," said Adrianna Kuropas Ellis, Ukrainian-American.

And it's been a year of pain for those here who can do nothing but watch from afar.

"I can ensure that every single person here knows someone who's died, who was killed, injured," said Anatolii Konovaliuk of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.

But also one of hope and unity.

"We are first generation Ukrainian. Parents immigrated after the Second World War. And so this is near and dear to our hearts. We have many family members out there. And they're all still fighting every day," said Oksana Woloszczuk.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and Congressmen Mike Quigley and Raja Krishnamoorthi were also in attendance.

"We will never surrender to dictators, we will never surrender to tyrants, and we will never surrender to Putin!" Krishnamoorthi told the crowd.

The group then took their rally to the pews of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, where Cardinal Blase Cupich officiated a service alongside clergy from various religious denominations. The message was 'the fight is still on.'

"It's very important to remember that war is not over. This isn't just war for Ukraine. It's war for freedom, for values that built this great country," Konovaliuk said.

Walter Siryj has owned Ann's Bakery and Dei in Ukrainian village since the early 1990s. He said he's proud of his fellow countrymen for putting up a strong fight. Support is constantly on display in the neighborhood.

"If the whole world will support them, Putin will never win. And I hope he will never win anyway," he said.

St. Nicholas Cathedral School opened its doors to almost 100 of Ukraine's youngest refugees in the last year. Students have been hanging posters supporting Ukraine as they got ready for a prayer service in the gymnasium.

Eighth grader Oksana Mazur was forced to leave her home back in April.

"The school helped me sometimes forget about the events in Ukraine," Mazur said. "I find friends and it's cool."

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Children coming from the war-torn country and children who have family there have been dealing with trauma.

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Halia Didula spent the first six months of the war in her hometown of Lviv, before coming to UIC on a Fulbright Scholarship.

Friday afternoon the K-8 school in Ukrainian Village held a prayer vigil.

"We'll be offering white roses and yellow roses to the students to show a sign of peace and solidarity with them that we stand with them and that we're here to support them and keep them safe while they're here in Chicago," Anna Cirilli, principal of Saint Nicholas Cathedral School, said.

Students and families are calling for peace on this one year mark.

Eighth grader Olena Dub hopes to remind people that people are still suffering in Ukraine.

"It shouldn't be forgotten just because of how long it's been," she said. "It actually makes it even worse that it has been as long and it's still going."

Ukrainian students in Chicago share message 1 year since start of war

Ukrainian refugees at St. Nicholas in Chicago share their thoughts one year since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Olena has been helping refugee students make the transition to school in Chicago easier during such a painful time.

"It's scary knowing that these people left their home due to unforeseen circumstances and due to something that shouldn't be happening," she said.

During the past year there have been countless marches, rallies and prayer vigils in the Chicago area to protest the war.

Olha Svyntarna was forced to leave her home in Kyiv when they came under fire last year.

Her husband stayed to fight in the army. She now lives in Chicago.

"We woke up at five in the morning," Tsvyntarna said. "My husband woke me up and says, 'They're bombing us, so you have an hour."

Ukrainian woman living in Chicago reflects on war 1 year later

Nadiia Glavin left Ukraine to escape the violence, but her father remains there.

The group will raise a Ukrainian flag in Fulton Market Saturday morning at 10 a.m. that will be visible along I-90. There is also a rally planned for noon Saturday at Daley plaza.

For more information on helping Ukrainian children at St. Nicholas Cathedral School, click here.