‘Killing can be stopped’: Community members support Ukraine in Chicago one year into Russia’s full-scale invasion


Jonah Elkowitz/Daily Senior Staffer

Protesters gathered at Ukrainian Village on Friday to denounce Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, one year after its start.

Sonya Dymova, Reporter

One year after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, hundreds of people gathered at Chicago’s Ukrainian Village to denounce the war and demand global support for Ukraine on Friday.

“We stand here mourning … a daily watch of crime against humanity, aggression with no seeming end because of the criminal and monster Vladimir Putin,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, addressing the demonstrators.

To represent this “daily watch of crime,” 365 people stood around the edge of the crowd. Each held a sign commemorating a day of the war. For instance, the “Day 1 of Defending Freedom” poster displayed nine pictures, including an apartment building damaged by shelling, a traffic jam caused by forced displacement and a dim sky illuminated by flames from explosions.

Since Feb. 24, 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Office recorded more than 8,000 civilian deaths in Ukraine, though it noted the actual numbers are likely substantially higher. In just one year, Russia allegedly committed more than 65,000 war crimes, according to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin. 

“Russia did not expect that we will last this long,” said 64-year-old Joseph Owerko, a demonstrator who was born in Ukraine. “We are thrilled that we are steadfast, committed to defending our mission — to defend the freedom of free people over the world.”

According to the former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Daniel Fried, Russia’s government likely expected the war to end quickly with little Ukrainian resistance. 

Some protesters said they didn’t expect to be recognizing a one-year anniversary for the war either — but for a different reason. 

Oksana Vickers, a Ukrainian-American student at the University of Chicago, said she didn’t expect the full-scale invasion to continue this long.

“It is a very surreal feeling,” Vickers said. “I so distinctly remember the day last year that the war broke out, and I was beside myself.”

While mourning the past year’s loss and devastation, demonstrators also celebrated the strength of the Ukrainian people. 

Almost every speech at the rally ended with the slogan “Slava Ukraini,” a Ukrainian phrase that translates to “Glory to Ukraine.” The crowd responded, “Heroiam Slava” — Ukrainian for “Glory to the Heroes” — every time.

The protest took place by the Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in Ukrainian Village. People holding yellow and blue flags lined the building’s stairs and nearby streets. Some protesters wore elements of traditional Ukrainian clothing, like Ukrainian wreaths. 

Vickers said the protest helped her connect with a local Ukrainian community.

“UChicago does not have a lot of Ukrainians,” Vickers said. “I really needed to feel like I was understood and seen.”

Protestors who don’t have Ukrainian heritage shared that spirit of unity, too.

U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) expressed his solidarity.

“We are all Ukrainians tonight,” he said. “We are Ukrainians in our love of freedom; we are Ukrainians in our love of liberty; we are Ukrainians in our love of democracy.”

In the short breaks between speakers’ speeches, the crowd chanted, “Arm Ukraine now!” 

Liliia Popovych, one of the protest’s organizers, called for other countries to give Ukraine more weapons, including F-16 jets. President Joe Biden told ABC on Friday he is not going to send the jets to Ukraine “for now.” 

“This is a huge difference between death and killing,” Popovych said. “Killing can be stopped. Killers can be stopped … And that’s what (the) Ukrainian army is doing right now.” 

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