Ukrainian community forms ‘human chain’ in Loop to protest Russian invasion

The nearly 500 protesters also put tape over their mouths as a silent protest against social media’s “sensitive content” tag they say is being used to block news stories of Russian acts of terror.

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Protesters hold hands to form a chain in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine outside the Historic Water Tower at 806 Michigan Ave in Gold Coast, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022.

Protesters hold hands to form a chain in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine outside the Historic Water Tower at 806 Michigan Ave in Gold Coast, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Hundreds of mostly women and girls from Chicago’s Ukrainian community joined hands Sunday to form a “human chain” across several blocks in the Loop as the group called on elected officials to declare Russia a terrorist state.

Donning white dresses and carrying signs that read “I want to tell the truth about Russia,” the nearly 500 protesters also put tape over their mouths as a silent protest against “sensitive content” tags they say are being used on social media to block news stories of Russian acts of terror.

“Everybody in the United States knows what is terrorism,” said Liliia Popovych of Ukrainian-American Women of Illinois, who helped organize the rally. “The world should know what is happening. People are just living their happy lives thinking we are safe, but we are not safe. If terrorism is not stopped in Ukraine, who is gonna be the next victims?”

Protesters hold hands to form a chain in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine outside the Historic Water Tower at 806 Michigan Ave in Gold Coast, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022.

Protesters hold hands to form a chain in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine outside the Historic Water Tower at 806 Michigan Ave in Gold Coast, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Popovych, who came to the U.S. 11 years ago, still has several family members in Ukraine including her sister and grandparents. She said she has to check in with them constantly to make sure they’re safe.

“They are OK for now, but they are at risk every single day,” she said. “I have so many friends who are not alive anymore. They died for the freedom of Ukraine.”

Popoyvch acted as the first link in the chain, which began at Millennium Park near Michigan Avenue and Washington Street. As the women joined hands, the chain stretched north more than a quarter-mile to Michigan and Wacker Drive. Rally-goers were careful not to block intersections and stood along the curb to avoid impeding pedestrians.

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Lilliia Popovych, of Ukrainian-American Women of Illinois, speaks about why there is a need for more awareness during a protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine outside of the Historic Water Tower in Gold Coast, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Several passersby stopped to take pictures, and occasionally gave women in line fist bumps.

The group first gathered in front of the historic Water Tower, where some supporters flew the Ukrainian flag and others wore its distinctive blue and yellow colors. Supporters sang the U.S. national anthem followed by the Ukrainian national anthem.

Popovych said Russia is shelling apartment buildings, schools, hospitals and malls in Ukraine under the guise of war. “It’s supposed to be stopped... It’s innocent people.”

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 25. The move was quickly condemned across the world, and Russia has been accused of committing war crimes for shelling civilian areas and hospitals.

Protesters walk down Michigan Ave towards Millennium Park in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022.

Protesters walk down Michigan Ave towards Millennium Park in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Kateryna Turchyna, who fled Ukraine eight years ago when Russia invaded Crimea, also still has family left in Ukraine. She said her and many of her friends have settled into a new “heartbreaking” routine.

“Get up every morning and all we do is read news just to make sure... was it bombed? And if so, where and how many times?” she said. “And then you try to connect to friends and relatives and see if they’re alive. Then we do whatever we need to do. We go to work, we do our other activities.”

Turchyna urged residents to not forget about Ukraine as the conflict drags on. She said she’ll continue to attend protests and raise awareness. Popovych said the group plans to hold more rallies.

“We’re not fighting just for our people but for the world as well,” Popovych said.

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