Ukraine two-year rally ‘so that people do not close their eyes’ to the war

Written by on 26th February 2024

MORE than 100 people joined Ukrainian refugees for an anti-war rally in Newcastle at the weekend, to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, in which 10,582 civilians have been killed.

The crowd gathered at Grey’s Monument in the city centre on Sunday (Feb 25), with Ukrainians draped in their national flags, some holding signs urging ‘Stop the genocide’, while children drew Ukrainian symbols on the pavement with chalk.

The refugees sang national songs and thanked Britain for its warm welcome and strong support of their beleagured nation.

Olha Vasylets, who left Ukraine with her daughter after Russia invaded, was among those attending.

She said: “We came today to support Ukraine and the people who remain there. In my opinion, people are now beginning to forget and [give less prominence to] Ukrainian news. We’re going through this, children die, people die, animals die every day.

“We must constantly be reminded of the war; we cannot be silent. We come out here so that people don’t close their eyes.”

About 1,000 Ukrainians have come to the North East since the full-scale invasion began, and they all want one thing – peace and to return to their homeland.

Residents from the UK, the Russian republic of Tatarstan and other countries also joined the rally and made speeches.

Newcastle resident Tom Madge addressed the rally, holding a poster declaring ‘We stand with Ukraine, their fight to repel Putin’s terror and imperial war.’

He said: “Freedom is not free. Ukraine fights for all our democracy. As someone from the UK, it is really important for us to support everyone who is undergoing genocide and invasions and understand that this is happening in Ukraine.

“It is happening in other places around the world and we can’t ignore it. We can’t pretend that.” 

Over the two hours of the rally, £223 was donated by members of the public, which organisers say will be sent to the Ukrainian army.

Tom Madge holding a sign in support of Ukraine

The day before the rally, the Salvation Army church in Sunderland hosted a Sunderland for Ukraine concert and collected donations, which will go to help Ukrainian families affected by the war.

In 2023, the church teamed up with local charity, Sunderland for Ukraine, to support Ukrainian refugees as they resettle in the UK.

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