‘Support means a lot to us:’ Rally in Dayton expresses solidarity with Ukraine

More than 100 people rallied in Courthouse Square Sunday to show solidarity with Ukrainians fighting to protect their country from Russian invasion, and pray for the war to end.

After a moment of silence and prayers and chants in both English and Ukrainian, speakers called for the world to unite against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

“The Ukrainian people, they are fighters. They will fight for their land. And we know that we will win,” said Oleg Umnov of Cincinnati. “Just pray for Ukraine and pray for the world.”

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Umnow described Ukraine as roughly the size and population of four Ohios put together. Umnov said he is constantly getting messages on his cellphone from family members in the war zone.

Attendees at Sunday’s rally said Americans here can help Ukrainians with financial support. Some people spoke of the importance of military aid for Ukrainian fighters and maintaining international pressure on Putin.

“We hope to tell the world and Daytonians that their support means a lot to us right now,” said Anastasia Nagle, one of the rally organizers.

“It’s very important for the whole world to come together and fight alongside Ukrainians against his tyranny, whether it’s a prayer, whether it’s donating money whether it’s reaching out to Ukrainian people who are struggling to hear from their loved ones and getting them to safety.”

Nagle’s parents were originally scheduled to fly in Sunday for a visit with her and their grandchildren who they haven’t seen in three years because of the pandemic.

“But they’re hiding in bomb shelters at the moment,” she said.

Anna Lavelle’s family lives in southern Ukraine near a river of strategic importance. Her family there is taking cover in a cellar amid fierce fighting. Someone sent her videos of destroyed Russian tanks in her hometown. A bread factory was destroyed.

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“I want the war to stop,” said Lavelle of Dayton.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declared Sunday a statewide day of prayer and attended church service at St. Andrew Ukrainian Catholic Church in Parma to show solidarity with the Ukrainian community.

Phillip Honeycutt of Dayton said he has no personal connection to Ukraine, but he attended Sunday’s rally in downtown Dayton because he has family in the military and opposes the senseless violence being inflicted by Russia.

“I don’t believe in war unless war is needed,” he said.

Signs held by protesters included appeals for peace and condemnation of Putin.

“If Russia stops fighting, there will be no war. If Ukraine stops fighting, there will be no more Ukraine,” one person’s sign read.

Said another: “We are all Ukrainian.”

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