UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — Hundreds of Chicagoans gathered to show solidarity with Ukraine during a Sunday rally outside Saints Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church.
The area around the church at 739 N. Oakley Blvd. was flooded with people during the rally, which culminated in a march to The Loop. Many people wore vinok — Ukrainian flower crowns — and carried Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Latvian flags while they chanted in support for Ukraine as Russia invades the country.
Kateryna Logoeska, who carried a sign at the rally, said she’d slept just eight to 10 hours in the past four days because she’s worried about her parents in Ukraine. They are “hiding in a bomb shelter” without electricity or heat in Kharkiv, one of Ukraine’s largest cities, which has been targeted during the Russian invasion.
“Anything we can do to help is what I’m trying to achieve,” Logoeska said. “I’m here to support them and try to make a difference, to try to get military aid and to close the skies above Ukraine so people stop dying.”
Gov. JB Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Reps. Mike Quigley, Danny Davis and Raja Krishnamoorthi — who represent portions of Chicago and the suburbs — attended the rally to show support for the 100,000 Ukrainian Americans living in the Chicago area, including 10,000 in Ukrainian Village.
“Slava Ukraini, and screw Vladimir Putin,” said Pritzker, whose family long ago immigrated to the United States from Kyiv. “To the heroes of Ukraine, Illinois is with you.”
Lightfoot called on the United States to accept fleeing Ukrainians and warned other “democratic, freedom-loving” countries are at risk of invasion, too.
“We must stop [Putin] in his tracks, and it begins right here and now with Ukraine,” Lightfoot said.
The rally attracted many Chicagoans of Slavic and Baltic heritage, who said they wanted to show support for neighbors of Ukraine.
Visata Rupeika, who was born in Lithuania but lives in Chicago, said she’s also had a hard time sleeping this week. Rupeika came to the rally with fellow Lithuanian Vita Sireikis to show support for their “brothers and sisters” in Ukraine.
Though Rupeika and Sireikis have lived in Chicago for 20 years, the invasion and bloodshed in Ukraine reminded them of Lithuania’s fight for independence, they said. The Soviet Union controlled Lithuania after World War II until it regained independence in 1990.
“We know what they’re going through because there was a time when we fought for our freedom, and there was a bloody battle, too,” Sireikis said. “It’s something that is so deep in our blood — to fight against injustice, against the Soviet Union and now Russia.”
Many speakers and protestors called for action over words or prayer.
“To say we are ‘for peace’ is not enough. We have to show up,” Sireikis said. “The very nature of the human being is to be free; it’s the essence of who we are: We are free. So, we’re standing here to support.”
Nerijus Glezekas, a local musician of Lithuanian heritage, said when he heard about the rally he grabbed his “weapon” — a guitar — and came to sing.
“Ukraine is such a strong country. Solidarity and patriotism are beyond belief. And it just gave me so much inspiration in writing music,” Glezekas said.
Glezekas said what is happening in Ukraine parallels what his family experienced during World War II, when they fled to Siberia, “lost everything” and “barely survived.”
A portion of the crowd, already overflowing into the street on Chicago Avenue, danced with a large Ukrainian flag while singing “Chervona Ruta,” a popular Ukrainian song, before they marched to The Loop.
In The Loop, people marched and caravanned through the traffic, chanting for Ukraine and condemning the war.
The rally was the latest of several events in support of Ukraine in Chicago since the Russian invasion began last week. Priests from Saints Volodymyr and Olha and St. Nicholas churches, two community anchors in the neighborhood, led a crowd of hundreds in prayer and song on Thursday.
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