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Utah Ukrainians rally in support of their native country

Apr 05, 2024 01:04PM ● By Tom Haraldsen

From left, Viktoria Hulko, Yuliia Pylypenko and Alex Fylypovych, all Salt Lake County residents, joined in the Rally for Ukraine on Feb. 24. (Tom Haraldsen/City Journals)

Feb. 24 marked the second anniversary of the beginning of the war in Ukraine, when Russian soldiers stormed the country in an attempted takeover. Over those two years, more than 10,000 civilians have been killed, in addition to an estimated 31,000 Ukrainian troops and 315,000 Russian military personnel.

Even with those numbers, a sense of apathy has grown among many Americans, and many countries worldwide, about the war. Members of the Utah Ukrainian Association joined with other residents in a rally this year on that date at the Utah State Capitol. The goal—to keep the messages of hope and support flowing to those in the embattled nation.

“Through the work of the association, we have met so many great organizations and community leaders,” said Maryna Detsyura of the UUA. “All of you guys have been extremely supportive and extremely helpful in the work that we do. Thanks to you we have managed to donate over $150,000 of equipment and aid to Ukraine over the last two years. Unfortunately, as the war is entering its third year, the need is still there and it’s growing.”

She said many of the items donated have included tactical gear, drones, drone components, first aid kits, and humanitarian aid for women and children. But she said the “attention from the media is shrinking. The Ukrainians really still need your support. We’re encouraging everyone to spread the word in your communities, among neighbors, coworkers, friends. We’re a nonprofit organization, so 100% of the donations go directly to Ukraine.”

She said another focus is advocacy, adding “some politicians these days are not very supportive of Ukraine. It’s very important now for us more than ever to make our voices heard. We’re encouraging everyone to contact their representatives. It really does make a difference. 

I know whether you’re American or Ukrainian, your support really matters and it helps.”

Three women there to support the rally now live in Salt Lake County. Viktoria Holko has lived in Utah since 2002, though she was born and raised in Ukraine and moved here at age 14.

“I have an aunt and some cousins who have been living there,” she said. “I work with a lot of refugees here now, people who have just arrived, so I hear a lot of stories about all the horrible things—cities being bombed and buildings being destroyed. A lot of people like my aunt have had to leave the country.”

She understands how apathy has set in for many because “the war has been going on for so long. When war first broke out, it was very inspiring and we were very grateful for all the attention we were getting. But I understand that things move on and the news gets superseded by other news. It makes me very sad because the war keeps going—it hasn't gotten any easier or any better—people keep dying, people keep getting displaced. We hope that with events like this, we can keep Ukraine on people’s minds.”

Holko works with the UUA which got a grant from the state’s Department of Workforce Services to work with refugees “to help them find housing and employment…help them get settled.” 

Yuliia Pylypenko moved to Salt Lake City just six months ago after the building she was living in was bombed, and she had nowhere else to go. She has found great support in the Ukrainian community in Utah. “I love it here and I’m grateful to be here, and to see the support from so many at the rally today.”

Alex Fylypovych is an American of Ukrainian descent who lives in Murray. She works for an organization called Welcome.US, a nonprofit organization that coordinates help for refugees, and chose to come to Utah to help with Ukrainian refugees.

“This rally is such a positive event for Ukrainian people living here,” she said. “I have been to Ukraine and it’s so sad to see what devastation the war has caused. I know the nation appreciates all the support it has gotten and will continue to get from Americans.”

The Utah Ukrainian Association hosts a series of events which are open to the public. They are listed on the UUA website and on its Facebook page. λ