February 24 global rally: Community leaders discuss achievements and challenges

#StandWithUkraine#UWC news
March 4,2024 687
February 24 global rally: Community leaders discuss achievements and challenges

Ukrainian communities around the world organized a record-breaking 1,023 events this year as part of the global advocacy campaign on the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in the ongoing 10-year war. Rallies in support of Ukraine took place on every continent, including Antarctica. In an interview with the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC), leaders of Ukrainian communities shared insights on their successful initiatives, challenges in organizing events, and future plans.

This year’s events were distinguished by their scale, according to leaders of Ukrainian communities. Not only Ukrainians themselves but also many friends of Ukraine joined the events.

“In one day, we all united and spoke with one voice about Ukraine. And it wasn’t just us, Ukrainians, who did it. We made sure that all our international partners did the same. I will never forget the moment when I ran from one point to another (during the march in Paris) and heard the voice of a Ukrainian woman shouting into the microphone ‘Glory to Ukraine.’ In response, I heard thousands of people at the rally saying ‘Glory to the Heroes.’ It was incredible because among these thousands of people, of course, there were Ukrainians, but there were also a lot of different politicians, associations, French people, people from other countries. Some came to this event from other cities. There was an incredibly strong force in this,” says Volodymyr Kogutyak, UWC Vice President for Western Europe.

Yury Chopyk, the Ukrainian Community Leader in Spain, also noted the significant number of Spanish citizens at the event. “People responded to this date, and a lot of people, a lot of Spaniards, actually came. It was a powerful action,” says Chopyk.

Ukrainian communities around the world organized a record-breaking 1,023 events this year as part of the global advocacy campaignAn event in Milan, Italy, brought together participants from various sectors and countries. “The list of speakers during the manifestation included representatives from the European Parliament, the Ukrainian Presidential Office, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and representatives of Italian civic organizations and government bodies,” reported the Association of Young Ukrainians in Italy (UaMi).

“In addition to Ukrainians and friends of Ukraine from various cities (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain, London), the evening was attended by the Ambassador of Ukraine to the UAE, Dmytro Senik, and the Polish diplomat in the UAE, Jan Linkowski,” said Yevheniy Semenov, UWC Vice President for Middle East and Central Asia. 

At the rally in Toronto, Canada, Mayor Olivia Chow stood out among the speakers for her particularly emotional speech. She shared personal memories of her mother, who, as a child, experienced war and vividly remembered its horrors.

“Ukraine is fighting for democracy and the world, and people who are raising funds on seven continents for the purchase of vehicles, drones, and other necessary equipment are helping, first and foremost, themselves and their countries,” emphasized Markian Shwec, Former President of Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Toronto Branch, in an interview with New Pathway Ukrainian News.

According to community leaders, communities were engaged through media announcements of the events and calls for participation through local media.

This year, Ukrainian communities also organized events with specific goals, varying by region. “The focus was on the return of Ukrainian children forcibly taken to Russia from Ukraine. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa raised the issue of returning children during his visit to Ukraine and Russia with a peace initiative in June 2023. In collaboration with South African experts and civil society organizations, UA SA is developing a Policy Brief to identify specific steps that African countries and the African Union can take to facilitate the return of Ukrainian children,” said UWC Vice President for Africa Dzvinka Kachur.

Yevheniy Semenov, UWC Vice President for Middle East and Central Asia, also shared details of the event supporting Ukraine. “Due to the specific local conditions of the region, the event in Abu Dhabi differed from most events worldwide – it was an evening of memory and unity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian world, bringing together Ukrainians, friends of Ukraine, and our partners. Together, we relived each of the 10 years of strength in our hearts through the civilian diaries. The most vulnerable population during the war, and at the same time the one that requires the most attention, is children. We are grateful to the project team ‘War Diaries: Unheard Voices of Ukrainian Children’ for drawing attention to this issue and for providing the short film ‘Imagine: War’ for screening, as well as organizing the inclusion of its young director, Vladyslav Pyatin.”

At the rally in Italy, calls for a just peace were made. “The ‘Victory for Peace’ march in northern Italy took place in Milan on Saturday, 24/02/2024. It was a large-scale event that brought together the entire northern Italy and marked 10 years since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and 2 years since the start of the full-scale war. During this event, the need for a just peace that guarantees stability and security, based on respect for international law, was emphasized. It is important to note that to achieve a just, safe, and lasting peace, it is necessary to respect international law, sovereignty, and the territorial integrity of countries through the application of the principle of responsibility, which entails fair punishment for those responsible for war crimes,” as reported by the Association of Young Ukrainians in Italy (UaMi). 

According to community leaders, the most common challenge for organizing mass actions this year was the prohibition of street events in many countries. At the same time, Ukrainian communities found a way out this year – gathering at the premises of consulates, embassies, or planning events of a different nature. In addition, community leaders note the insufficient attention from local authorities to rallies, especially regarding participation.

The global Ukrainian community was able to attract the attention of the media worldwide to the rallies. In Portugal, all media covered pro-Ukrainian events, said Pavlo Sadokha, UWC Vice-President and President of the Union of Ukrainians in Portugal. Articles about Ukraine were published in the local press in Antalya, Türkiye. “During the event, local residents and foreigners approached the protesters, asked questions, and joined in supporting Ukraine,” says Vita Mykhailova, Head of the Ukrainian Union “Ukrainian Family”. Materials were also prepared by local media in Indonesia, Canada, Australia, Africa, as well as numerous countries in Europe. “On this day, my own column was also published in the local publication The National,” said Yevheniy Semenov.

The secret to success lies in the unity of the diaspora, believes Anna Gordon, co-founder of the Association of Young Ukrainians in Italy (UaMi).

“The idea of the actions was to remind everyone, and most importantly Russia, that they haven’t forgotten about Ukraine. This was the first result we saw immediately. To remind you, last year the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) registered just under 500 events worldwide. This year, we registered over 1000. So, we felt support at all levels, much higher than last year. What does this mean? Russia has been trying for the second year to make everyone forget about Ukraine, to leave Ukraine alone and stop helping. The rhetoric constantly used by Russia is that nobody supports Ukraine anymore. On this day, we clearly showed that Ukraine is not only still being supported but is supported even more than a year ago,” says Volodymyr Kogutyak.

“We all know that we can always work even better for Ukraine and achieve our common goal, search for hidden resources, analyze and improve our efficiency, unite, so that next year on this date, there will be completely different actions. It’s possible with joint efforts,” concludes Yevheniy Semenov.

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