Hundreds of members of the Ukrainian community from across New England gathered Sunday in Boston to protest Russian aggression and show solidarity with their homeland as the threat of a Russian invasion looms.
Demonstrators held services at Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church and St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Jamaica Plain before heading out in a motorcade to a vigil at the World War II Memorial in the Back Bay Fens. There they commemorated the lives of the "Heavenly Hundred" — people who were killed during the 2014 uprising that toppled the president — and all the soldiers and civilians killed during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
For those gathered, there was a sense of determination mixed with an anxiety over what comes next for their country.
Vsevolod Petriv, the president of the Boston branch of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, said that people were coming in from as far away as New Hampshire, Rhode Island and central Massachusetts for the day. About 200 people were expected, but looking at the crowd gathered at Christ the King, he thought more than that had shown up.
He had mixed feelings about what happens next.
"I hope that a peaceful solution is found that ensures Ukraine's sovereignty and right to choose how they are going to be governing themselves," he said. "Both are important. The fear is that they won't get that right unless there's more conflict. And the second fear is how firm will the allies be to support them?"
On Friday, President Joe Biden said that he's convinced that Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine. Thousands of Russian troops are currently massed at the Ukrainian border.
Galyna Shlapak came to the U.S. from Ukraine five years ago with her husband. She said she's frustrated and scared over the current situation since she still has family and friends there.
"And I was in Ukraine when the war started and that was a very traumatic experience for all of the Ukrainians," she said in reference to 2014, when Russian forces invaded the Crimean Peninsula. "But now I can see that Ukrainians are more resilient. They got used to the war and to all this frustration and fear. And people are just frustrated and tired of that war and we really want it to be over and we want it to end soon."
Lesya Kuzyk came to the U.S. about 20 years ago. She said she hopes there's still room for diplomacy, but she points out Ukrainians have been dealing with Russian incursion for almost a decade.
"The reason that we're talking about this war so much right now is because now it's touching the rest of the world," she said. "And we would like the world to take their part and keep supporting Ukraine."
Anton Khlebas was born and raised in Ukraine, but got his green card in 2012. He joined the Navy in 2013 and served for four years.
He said that Ukraine hasn't backed down through all of the fighting that's already occured.
"That's what Russia was counting on that we would just give up and abandon our cause, but Ukrainians are fighting, resisting," he said. "We know Russians, in the Soviet Union we had close relationships...we understand them, so we are not afraid of them. So Ukrainians will fight with or without the help of others."
One thing he says he would like his fellow Americans to understand is that the situation in Ukraine is a byproduct of the fall of the Soviet Union.
"Those people in the Kremlin who have a Cold War mentality, that still look at the world through the perspective and the paradigm and the lens of the '80s, the '70s, their time is almost gone," he said. "So they're still trying to connect Russia to Ukraine and keep the influence. But Ukraine has its own choice to develop as a democratic and a free state. So this is actually the echo of the breaking up of the Soviet Union."