Seattle rallies behind Ukraine with solidarity demonstration at UW’s Red Square

Feb 24, 2022, 6:47 PM | Updated: Mar 15, 2022, 9:39 am

More than 100 Ukrainian-Americans and allies gathered at the University of Washington’s Red Square on Thursday to stand in solidarity with Ukraine and protest Russia’s invasion.

And while the UW plaza shares its unofficial name with the Moscow square that borders the Kremlin, this Red Square was a sea of Ukrainian flags on Thursday afternoon.

Draped in the blue and yellow flags and lifting their voices to the melody of the Ukrainian National Anthem, those at the rally spoke of their fear for loved ones still in Ukraine, and their determination to fight back against Russia. They called on Americans to ask the government for stronger sanctions against Russia and to stop buying Russian products.

Olena Bidovanets with the Ukrainian Association of Washington urged people to stand with Ukraine, saying that the invasion is an attack on what every free country stands for.

UW Russia expert: Ukraine could be worst war in Europe since 1945

“Ukraine is an independent country. This invasion is not just an invasion in Ukraine, but an invasion of Europe,” Bidovanets told the crowd. “This war is not just a Russian war with Ukraine, but Russia with the whole democratic world.”

She called Russian President Vladimir Putin “a second Hitler,” and compared his invasion of Ukraine to the Nazis taking over Poland and the former Czechoslovakia.

Teenage sisters Maya and Vesna Nyzhnykevych were born in Ukraine and still have relatives living there, near the Ivano-Frankivsk Airport that was hit with missiles.

“They’re a couple of blocks away from the airport that was bombed in Ivano-Frankivsk,” Vesna Nyzhnykevych said. “It was very scary, but they’re safe. They’ve been hiding out in their apartments — we have a very strong, stubborn family, but they’re safe.”

“Seeing the bombing videos did make me cry, because our family is there, and we can’t do anything to help them other than listen to news and hope that they’re safe,” she added.

They are asking now for stronger moves from the United States and its allies, including a NATO no-fly zone over Ukraine. This would enable NATO members to shoot down Russian military planes that fly in Ukrainian airspace.

“All we want is peace. We didn’t instigate it or anything, and I think this could have all been solved a lot earlier on,” Maya Nyzhnykevych said. “The U.S. should have done more in the beginning, and I think they should do whatever they can to stop the bloodshed. … If that means going to war, I guess so, but I don’t ever think war is the right answer.”

She asked Americans who want to help Ukraine to get in touch with their elected representatives and ask for the sanctions and no-fly zone.

“Call your Congressman, call your representatives, stay educated, make sure you know what’s true and what’s not,” she said.

She added that those who want to donate should be careful not to donate to any page on social media claiming to give to Ukrainians. She recommended Razom.

Sergey Zhenochin also has family members in Ukraine. His loved ones are in Kyiv and currently cannot get out due to the backed-up roads.

“We’re pretty scared about it, and we don’t know what else Putin has in store. … Our family is getting ready to become refugees, it’s pretty scary,” he said. “You watch the news and you think, ‘Oh my God, it’s happening to someone [else], it’s never going to happen to me,’ but boom.”

He said the time for diplomacy is over.

“I think the only message that Russia understands is force,” he said. “So I’m hoping that our armed forces are going to shed enough Russian blood that they turn back. That’s the only thing that Russia understands.”

He is asking America to send weapons and financial aid for the Ukrainian military. His fear is that just as with Hitler in the 1930s, world powers will not do enough to stop a dictator from seizing free countries.

“Please help us,” he said. “Remember 1938, 1939.”

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Seattle rallies behind Ukraine with solidarity demonstration at UW’s Red Square