Boston's Ukrainian community joined with city officials on Wednesday to raise their flag and celebrate Ukrainian Independence Day.
A crowd of about 150 people donning blue and yellow gathered at City Hall Plaza to recite prayers and join together in celebration of the day when Ukraine's parliament vowed to separate from the former Soviet Union in 1991. But to some, the holiday felt bittersweet under the shadow of Russia's invasion and the ongoing war.
"We are here to commemorate both the Ukrainian community in its contributions to Boston, and also to remember all of those who have sacrificed and fought for freedom — and especially in this moment in Ukraine on the front lines," said Vsevolod Petriv, president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, who led the celebration.
The war was very much on the minds of those who attended the event.
Nick Zozula, president of the Ukrainian American Youth Association of Boston, is a second generation Ukrainian American who said his grandparents fled Russian aggression in the 1940s and 1950s.
"I think that's our job as a diaspora — as Ukrainian Americans and Ukrainian immigrants — to continue to keep the war in Ukraine on everyone's minds here," he said.
Ipswich resident Oleksy Svitelskiy immigrated to the United States from Ukraine in 1996. He said he had mixed feelings about the celebration.
"Of course war is putting its stamp on everything we are doing and our families back in Ukraine," he said. "We have to always think about them, if they are still alive."
Mayor Michelle Wu, along with City Councilors Ed Flynn, Michael Flaherty and Erin Murphy, filed a proclamation recognizing the day and spoke at the celebration.
Wu said Ukrainians have been "fighting, suffering and giving up their lives" to protect their freedom. She said once the war began, the Ukrainian community in Boston sprang into action with events, fundraising efforts and protests.
"Make no mistake, this fight is not just Ukraine's, it is all of ours. It belongs to every one of us here today," Wu said. She later added, "When this fight is over, when Ukraine has won, we will be there as well to support the people of Ukraine in their efforts to recover and rebuild."