Ukrainian diaspora in US, Canada rallies against ‘surreal’ attack

In response to Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States and Canada is demonstrating, fundraising, organising social media campaigns, and calling on their elected leaders to act.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine, bombing cities across the country, including the capital, Kyiv, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at least 137 Ukrainians had been killed on the first day of the attack.

Watching the news from New York City, Ukrainian-born Dmytro Shein felt the urge to help. His grandmother had moved from Ukraine to the US in the 1990s, and he and his mother followed in the early 2000s. His father, uncles and aunts still live in Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine.

The city has not been bombed, but the family members have started packing their bags. If anything happens, Shein said they plan to hide in a movie theatre that the city is converting into a bomb shelter.

“Even when we’re checking in with family, it feels like people haven’t realised yet what’s happening,” he told Al Jazeera.

He had never launched a fundraiser before, but his girlfriend suggested he start one to finance food, fuel and legal fees, in case his family needs to flee Ukraine. In less than 24 hours, the fundraiser was halfway to its $8,000 goal.

He called the Russian invasion “strange and shocking”, adding: “I am really trying to check in and do what I can.

“I hope we come out of this OK, not too battered,” he said.

Rallies spring up

Other Ukrainian Americans also want to help.

Andrij Dobriansky, director of communications for the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), noted that in the first hours after the Russian invasion people rallied at 4am (09:00 GMT) in front of the Russian embassy in Washington, DC, and flash mobs popped up in New York City.

“Those events sprang up almost instantly even though people barely slept,” Dobriansky told Al Jazeera. He has been encouraging the Ukrainian diaspora to contact their local leaders no matter where they are in the US.

 

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