Despite frigid temperatures, hundreds of Ukrainian-Americans, Ukrainian refugees and their allies gathered for a peace rally in Times Square on Friday evening marking the one year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The crowd demanded that Russia end its unjustified war against Ukraine and the bloody destruction that has claimed the lives of thousands, including children.
Many in attendance were wrapped in Ukrainian flags and holding posters depicting the history of every single day of 365 days of the war in chronological order.
The demonstrators were as defiant as their family and friends in Ukraine, which, under the leadership of democratically elected President Volodymyr Zelensky and with the help of the free world, has been able to fight off Vladimir Putin’s forces against all odds.
Protestors vowed to fight Russian tyranny and defend freedom, chanting “Stand with Ukraine” and “We are Ukraine.”
Daniel Cronin attended the rally in a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
“Sometimes there are just things that are so clear, as clear as day and night,” Cronin said. “It’s a fight between wrong and right. And Ukraine is clearly on the side of right. And Putin is clearly on the side of wrong.”
Arthur Zgurov reminded the crowd that despite the difficult circumstances, Ukrainians continued to fight “all the way to victory.”
Zgurov also recounted some of the atrocities committed by Russian forces, such as the discovery of a mass grave with 447 bodies in Izium on Sept. 15, 2022.
“It could have been any of us simply because we are Ukrainian,” Zgurov said.
Sofia Wakemko shared that she fled her war torn country three months ago.
“I hope this year the war is over and Putin may be dead,” Sofia, who hails from a town in central Ukraine near Kyiv, said.
Waving Ukrainian flags, the crowd broke out into singing the Ukrainian national anthem and holding a moment of silence for the victims of the war.
Similar antiwar rallies were held in cities around the world in solidarity with Ukraine. New York City Mayor Eric Adams ordered City Hall and other municipal buildings to be lit in the colors of the Ukrainian flags, blue and yellow.
In a statement, Hizzoner said, “New York City is home to the largest Ukrainian population in the United States, and we are proud to stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian neighbors. Today, even one year later, we are sending a clear message that New Yorkers will always support our brothers and sisters in Ukraine as they continue to suffer as a result of President Putin’s tyranny. Ukrainians here and everywhere should know that we will continue to stand with them.”
As the war enters its second year, Ukraine is finally receiving much needed modern military equipment. The first Polish Leopard tanks arrived in Ukraine, while Sweden said it will send up to 10 Leopard tanks and anti-aircraft systems. The United States pledged $2 billion in military aid and announced new sanctions against Russia and its allies.
Svetlana hoped that the peace rally was going to draw attention to the ongoing war in Ukraine and for people to pay attention. Her relatives live in a small town in Ukraine.
“They still got some bombings going on there,” Svetlana said. “They are crying every day. They are trying to get used to the situation. But it’s not a situation you should get used to.”
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.