Hundreds of people rallied in Bayfront Park Saturday, standing in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and against Russian aggression.
Organizers say they have three main demands: a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which American and NATO leaders have said is not an option, fearing it could spark a world war, an embargo of Russian oil and gas and that all Russian banks be removed from the SWIFT banking communications system.
Many of the people at the rally had deep family ties to Ukraine.
67-year-old Valentina Omelinenko’s daughter Victoria Lozovska was one of the many demonstrators in Bayfront Park and said Valentina is trying to find refuge in Poland after fleeing Kyiv amid Russia’s invasion.
“It’s mile-long lines trying to get out of Kyiv. Unfortunately, Kyiv is one of the biggest targets for Putin,” Lozovska said. “She has been hiding in the basement and hearing the missiles and the bombs going off in her neighborhood. She’s been extremely stressed out not knowing if she’s going to live another day.”
“I feel very powerless that I cannot help. So that’s why we’re here today to speak on behalf of Ukrainian people and do what we can,” Lozovska said.
Kostia Lukyniuk, a Ukrainian violinist, auditioned at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music and returned to Ukraine just weeks before the war. Lukyniuk opened up about his experience a week ago on NBC 6.
Now he says he and his brother fled Kyiv, and went to their hometown in western Ukraine.
“I mean, every day you might hear rounds and explosions,” Lukyniuk said, “We knew that we had to get out.”
Getting out meant walking three hours to find a car at their uncle’s apartment. Their uncle’s fighting in the war and they drove his car to the train station.
“It was a long, long walk also because of different block posts, and people on tanks, and rifles,” Lukyniuk said.
Russian invaders have also captured the city of Kherson, where Irena Bessmertnaya is from.
“Kherson people started tried to stop the military of Russia by their hands,” Bessmertnaya said. “They were laying on their tanks.”
Saturday’s rally included demonstrators from Russia.
“I am Russian and I am here to support Ukraine,” demonstrator Tatyana Bondarenko said. “We are brotherly nations, and uh, I don’t know, I’m going to cry right now.”
“We felt ashamed, because Belarus was supposed to be the good neighbor that helps out,” demonstrator Vitaly Samsonov said.