365 Days of Defending Freedom

The days leading to the anniversary of the horrific full invasion of Ukraine by Russia were very emotional. The Ukrainian community in Minnesota was heartened to receive an incredible show of support from our elected representatives, public officials, and partner organizations. Thank you!

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz proclaimed February 24th as SOLIDARITY DAY WITH UKRAINE in Minnesota!
 – Mayor Jacob Frey proclaimed February 24th as SOLIDARITY WITH UKRAINE DAY in Minneapolis.
– At the request of Minneapolis City Council Member Michael Rainville, Downtown Minneapolis landmarks were lit up in blue and yellow from February 24th through February 26th.
– On February 21st, just prior to one year anniversary of the full scale invasion of Ukraine, State Representative Sydney Jordan read a letter to the Minnesota House of Representatives from the MN Ukrainian American Advocacy Committee, after which all the House Representatives honored the fallen Ukrainians with a moment of silence.

To recognize the strength and perseverance of the Ukrainian people, and the dedication of local Ukrainian American Community supporters and volunteers, the Ukrainian community members and friends gathered at the Ukrainian American Community Center on Saturday, February 25th. 
The Honorary Consuls of several countries that have been supportive of Ukraine and our Ukrainian-American community joined the event:
Mr. Bruce Karstadt, Honorary Consul of Sweden, Ms. Barbara Muller, Honorary Consul of Germany, Ms. Marit Lee Kucera, Honorary Consul of The Czech Republic, Ms. Elaine M. Kumpula, Honorary Consul of Finland, and Mr. Miro Medved, Honorary Consul of Slovenia. We were greatly honored by their presence. Thank you for your support, dear Honorary Consuls!

Basic facts about the support of Ukraine from the above mentioned countries (listed in alphabetical order)

United in solidarity with allies in more than 40 cities across North America,
Minnesota Ukrainians were joined by the leaders of the state, city,
local community organizations representatives, clergy and guests from Ukraine. 


 February 25th, marked a somber anniversary, fresh in the hearts and minds of millions worldwide. One year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine and began a war of attrition, causing terror beyond imagining. Millions of Ukrainians fled, thousands were killed or injured, yet Ukrainians fought back and stunned the world by their strength of spirit and bravery. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared Ukraine’s year long fight with Russia a “year of invincibility.”
 To honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and to recognize the incredible work in support of Ukraine over the past year, Twin Cities Ukrainian community members and friends came together on February 25th at the Ukrainian American Community Center in Northeast Minneapolis. The event was co-sponsored by Alight, the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota, the Germanic-American Institute, Global Minnesota, and Kramarczuk’s. Thank you, sponsors!
     The evening, hosted by the UACC Vice President Maria Sheremeta, began with beautiful renditions of the American and Ukrainian national anthems performed by community members Olga Frayman and Oleksiy Khrystych. Following the anthems, Father Ivan Shkumbatyuk and Father Myron Korostil led prayers for the fallen and for the strength of Ukraine and its people. Rabbi Debra Rappoportco-chair of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association, delivered a moving prayer in support of Ukrainians around the world.

     Minnesota Ukrainian American Advocacy Committee Chairwoman, Luda Anastazievsky, then took the stage to talk about the committee’s work and thank the Jewish Community Relations Council President Steve Hunegs and Deputy Executive Director Ethan Roberts for their leadership and partnership in introducing a bill to divest Russian funds from the MN state pension funds in March of 2022. On behalf of the Ukrainian community, Luda expressed gratitude to the MN Senate and House of Representatives for their unanimous vote to pass the bill and to the Governor Tim Walz for signing the bill into law and issuing the executive order Condemning the Russian Government’s Aggression against Ukraine and Supporting the People of Ukraine by ending Support to Russian Entities.
     Luda was honored to introduce the specially recorded video messages requested by the MN Ukrainian American Advocacy Committee from several state officials – Governor Tim Walz, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Congressman Dean Phillips, Congresswoman Betty McCollum – all unwavering supporters of Ukraine, and from Consul General of Ukraine Serhii Koledov. The attendees listened to them with great attention.
     After the appreciative applause for the  recorded messages from state officials came words of support from Minnesota House Representative Sydney Jordan, the author of the House divestment bill, and Minneapolis City Councilman Michael Rainville. Both leaders, who are the long-time friends and supporters of Minnesota’s Ukrainian Community, delivered strong messages of support for Ukraine and Ukrainian people.

     The President of the Polish American Cultural Institute of Minnesota (PACIM) Edyta Dudek shared a moving story about her visit to the Ukrainian-Polish border and the support provided to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war zone by the people of Poland.
     Guests enjoyed beautiful live renditions of Ukrainian music performed by The Isles Ensemble (Stephanie Arado – violin, Natsuki Kumagai – violin, Ken Freed – viola, Tom Rosenberg – cello, Laura Sewell – cello, Ivan Konev – piano) referred to by the Star Tribune as the “cream of Twin Cities classical musicians.” The Esles Ensemble musicians are the wonderful supporters of Ukraine having raised over 70 thousand  of dollars!
     UACC President Paul Jablonsky thanked all the donors, partners, and volunteers for their tremendous support during this unbelievably difficult year. He highlighted the efforts of and thanked Stand with Ukraine MN team leaders – Mykola Sarazhynsky, Maria Sheremeta, Roman Kovbasnyk, Dima Blyshchak, Oleksiy Khrystych, Medical Team leaders – Natalia Danylkova, Oksana Gren, Alexandra Sakurets, Tanya Melnik, the Community Outreach Manager Iryna Petrus as well as the MN Ukrainian American Advocacy Committee.
     The Ukrainian Center’s partnerships with many community organizations and government entities are critical for its work supporting recently-arrived Ukrainian refugees. In addition to the co-sponsors of the event, the Center’s network of partners includes the City of Minneapolis Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, the Saint Paul City Attorney’s Office Welcome Saint Paul – Immigrant & Refugee Program, Alight, Arrive Ministries, International Institute of Minnesota, Lutheran Social Services, and the Minnesota Council of Churches, and CAPI. Representatives of many of these organizations joined the Ukrainian community to mark this solemn date. 
     The Ukrainian Center is especially thankful to the Minnesota Department of Human Services Refugee Program Office, which provided a generous grant allowing UACC to hire a Community Outreach Manager.
     Roman Tyschenko, a Fullbright MA student from Ukraine, introduced the North American premiere of  “Ukraine: War and Resistance,” an exhibit organized by Fulbright Ukraine in partnership with the Fulbright Association Minnesota Chapter.
     Another highlight of the evening included a video tribute (see below) to all those who contributed to aiding Ukraine over the past year from within our local Ukrainian-Minnesotan community: MN Ukrainian American Advocacy Committee, Protez Foundation, Stand with Ukraine MN and Medical teams at the Ukrainian American Community Center, St. Constantine Ukrainian Catholic Church, St. Michael’s & St. George’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, St. Katherine Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Rebuild Ukraine, and Ukrainian Village Band.

  The evening concluded with a keynote address “Horror and heroism: the lessons of the first year of the Russian aggression against Ukraine” by Professor Volodymyr Dubovyk (via Zoom) one of the preeminent Ukrainian experts in the fields of international affairs, security studies, and foreign policy analysis. His insightful and informative talk deepened the understanding of Ukrainian history and the causes behind the war. Volodymyr Dubovyk is spending the current academic year at The Fletcher School and the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University. He is an Associate Professor at the Department of International Relations and the Director of the Center for International Studies at Odesa I. I. Mechnikov National University in Ukraine.
     On an emotional day filled with sorrow, remembrance, and hope, the “365 Days of Defending Freedom” event provided strength and togetherness for all who attended. As the war enters its second year, the spirit of Ukraine remains strong, inspiring the world. Freedom is not free, and when Ukraine emerges victorious, the world will not soon forget that Ukrainians fought for democracy not only in Ukraine, but in the world.     We are grateful to all invited speakers, musicians, guests of honor, representatives of partner and community organizations, and all attendees for joining our Ukrainian  community to Stand With Ukraine!