Thousands show support for Ukraine at downtown rally: ‘There is no more time to wait’
“It’s showing support for my family back in Ukraine,” 17-year-old Dasha Lukinova said Sunday afternoon at a rally in support of Ukraine that drew thousands to Daley Plaza.
Four-year-old Eugene Lukinov sat on his father’s shoulders waving a Ukrainian flag two-times the size of the little boy. Standing between his wife and 17-year-old daughter, Alexander Lukinov held a sign that read, “Stop [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, stop war.”
“It’s showing support for my family back in Ukraine,” his daughter, Dasha Lukinova, explained Sunday afternoon at a rally in support of Ukraine that drew thousands to Daley Plaza. “They’re still fighting the war, and they’re not really able to leave yet. So [we’re] showing solidarity with them and we’re trying our best to help out the best we can here.”
A few feet away from the Lukinov family stood Halyna and Vasyl Stetsyuk, siblings and Ternopil, Ukraine, natives.
“We lost our [24-year-old] cousin. We found out yesterday,” Halyna Stetsyuk, 33, said as she wept and her older brother wrapped his arm around her. “There’s nothing we can do — just come here and show our support to Ukrainian people, to pray for who’s left there.
“Everybody’s talking about refugees — yes, there’s millions, but there’s over 40 million people still in the Ukraine fighting.”
After a series of speakers, the group of about 2,000 marched through the Loop, shutting down at least three blocks at a time. A chorus of “close the sky” and “hands off Ukraine” chants filled the air as the protesters filed through the city’s business district.
Before the march, rally organizers in Daley Plaza called for people to stop buying Russian-made products and to boycott global companies, such as McDonald’s and Starbucks, who haven’t pulled business out of Russia.
Serhiy Koledov, consulate general of Ukraine in Chicago, chanted: “Close it down! Close it down! Close it down!” as the crowd parroted his cries.
“Doing business with Russia [is becoming] increasingly toxic,” Koledov said. “We need more, more action. We need more support immediately.”
Koledov joined Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in calling for a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
“There is no more time to wait. We need it urgently because the current situation is critical,” Koledov said. “It is not about Ukrainian security. It is about the security of all the European continent and the whole world.”
The U.S. and NATO have opposed established a no-fly zone, with officials saying it could lead to “full-fledge war in Europe.”
As more speakers took turns sharing the stage, Nataliya Dovbenko, who’s from Ternopil, hugged her 9-year-old daughter from behind and rested her chin on the girl’s pink beanie. Dovbenko said she has family in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, whom she hasn’t heard from in four days.
“I don’t know what happened with them,” she said as tears welled in her eyes. “... I’m just silent. Just praying, and that’s it.”
Stetsyuk said she’s following the news coming out of Ukraine with a heavy heart.
“It is difficult ... we want to be there,” she said. “We understand that ... there might not be next time to come home to see our family.”
Dasha Lukinova said she was in disbelief when she saw Russia invade Ukraine late last month.
“At first, I didn’t really believe it, I was thrown off guard. Well, I knew it was happening but... I couldn’t believe it happened,” she said.
Then, reality started to sink in.
Lukinova’s mind went straight to her family who still lives in the western part of the country. She worried about her grandmother, aunts and uncles.
“Only thing I can focus on is my family. School right now has become my last priority,” the senior at Vernon Hills High School said. Fortunately, she said her family has remained safe, though they’ve experienced bomb threats.
Lukinova said she’s trying her best to help them from afar.
Meanwhile, her 60-year-old grandfather, Taras Rymaruk, was determined to help defend his homeland after the invasion. That’s why he boarded a plane in Chicago on Thursday heading to Ukraine, where he’s working as a cook for the nation’s army reserve.
“He just told us this is something he has to do,” Lukinova recalled.