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‘Glory to Ukraine!’: Hundreds gather to show Pittsburgh’s support for Ukraine

Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon to protest Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.

People crowded onto the muddy grass of Liberty Avenue Park near Gateway Station as Father Timothy Tomson of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks read a prayer issued by the diocese.

“Our brothers and sisters, Lord, are once again threatened by aggressors who see them only as simple obstacles, blocking the path to complete domination of the precious land and resources of the country of Ukraine.”

After singing the U.S. national anthem, the crowd sang the Ukrainian national anthem; a man yelled “Slava Ukraini,” or “Glory to Ukraine” and the response, “heroyam slava” came roaring back: “glory to the heroes.”

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told attendees that all of southwestern Pennsylvania stands with Ukrainians to “denounce the pariah that Putin has become in this world, and how Russia needs to be outcast for doing what they’re doing.”

“When we stand together, when we stand in the name of love, there’s nothing we can’t defeat,” said Mayor Ed Gainey.

“By standing for Ukraine we’re not just standing for ourselves,” said Andrew Romanchik, who helped organize the event. “We are standing for the free world, we are standing for democracy.”

Romanchik and two sisters, Kateryna and Hrystyna Petrylo, created a group called Ukrainian Youth of Southwestern Pennsylvania on Thursday night in response to the invasion of Ukraine, and decided to call for a rally.

“I thought we’d have 20, 25 people,” Romanchik said. Looking out over a crowd that spilled out toward the Point and Liberty Avenue he noted the American flag, a Georgian flag, a Turkish flag; Russians, Belarusians. “It’s amazing.”

A number of people passed around a portable microphone to talk about what they’ve heard from family members and friends in Ukraine. One man, Bohdan Komecky, said that patriotic feeling is very high, and many people are registering to receive weapons and defend the country. He assured people that the general sentiment is that the Ukrainians will kick the Russians out.

Oksana Kapush and Edward Gershelis stood on a low wall and held signs that read, “Hands off Ukraine” and “Stop Putin, Stop War.” While they came to the United States many years ago, Gershelis said they still love the place where they were born and grew up.

What’s happening isn’t right, “and it has to be fixed,” he said. “We want to fix that.”

Kapush, who still has family in Ukraine, added a succinct call to action. “Putin, stop killing our people.”

Further out in the crowd, Adrien Krupenkin held a sign that said “HET BOЙHE!” or “no to war.” Her parents are Russian, and she said like a lot of families, theirs is spread across both Russia and Ukraine. We’re “used to thinking of our cultures as friends and closely related,” she said. “It’s very important to me that the Western world knows that this isn’t Russia declaring war on Ukraine, this is Putin declaring war on Ukraine.”

Standing nearby, Anastasia Gorelova seconded what Krupenkin said, adding that it is scary for Russian people in Russia to show dissent; reports suggest that more than 5,000 people have been arrested for protesting Putin’s actions over the last four days. As a Russian in the United States, Gorelova felt she had to show support for Ukrainians “on behalf of people who couldn’t show their will freely.”

What’s heartbreaking is that Putin thinks he’s hurting the West, “but the West is not hurting,” said Luda Bates, who is from Ukraine’s Donbas region. “The only people that are going to get hurt are going to be the Russians and the Ukrainians.”

Corrected: February 28, 2022 at 7:34 AM EST
This story was updated to correct the spelling of the name of Father Timothy Tomson of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church.