HARTFORD, Conn. – On February 20, some 300 Ukrainian Americans and their supporters from across central Connecticut gathered at the State Capitol here to demonstrate their solidarity with the people of Ukraine and to denounce Russia’s expanding aggression against Ukraine.
The rally drew extensive press coverage, with a front-page feature story and photos in the Hartford Courant and television news coverage on Connecticut’s local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates.
Among the featured speakers were U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) who shared his experience when he visited Kyiv in January with a Congressional delegation that included three Republican and four Democratic senators.
“In our meeting with [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy, I told the president how impressed I’ve been with Connecticut’s vibrant Ukrainian community,” Mr. Blumenthal said.
“Since the Revolution of Dignity, I believe that I’ve visited every one of the Ukrainian churches in Connecticut multiple times. I told [Mr.] Zelenskyy that the people of Connecticut are with you. All of America stands with you.”
The program also included greetings from U.S. Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Joseph Courtney (D-Conn.). Earlier that morning, Mr. Courtney and his wife, Audrey, attended Divine Liturgy at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Willimantic, Conn., an historic mill town in the eastern portion of the state. As a practicing Catholic, he commented on the beauty of the service and the impressive singing by the parish choir.
Despite frigid temperatures on the morning of the rally, the crowd of peaceful demonstrators maintained a buoyant disposition, singing “Oi u luzi Chervona Kalyna,” as well as the national anthems of the United States and Ukraine. They also chanted “Slava Ukraini” (glory to Ukraine).
Many participants of the rally here were unable to join another rally organized in Washington, but they expressed gratitude to the organizers of the rally in Connecticut for holding a local demonstration that they could all attend.
Writing for The Hartford Courant, Eliza Fawcett reported on some of the most memorable quotes from the rally.
“Ukrainians are a proud people and they love their country. They will never become part of the Russian empire,” Anatole Bobriwnyk, a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, told The Courant.
Rally co-organizer Alexander Kuzma, who served as an emcee for the event, invoked the spirit of Nathan Hale, the Connecticut native and Revolutionary War hero whose last words before being executed by British forces are common knowledge to the state’s many schoolchildren.
“I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country,” Mr. Hale famously said.
“Today, there are thousands and thousands of Ukrainian Nathan Hales standing guard in the frozen bunkers and outposts along the Belarusian and Russian border,” Mr. Kuzma said.
Against the backdrop of the city’s impressive skyline, the blue and yellow of the various Ukrainian flags help by attendees of the rally brightened the steps of the Capitol as hundreds of Ukrainian Americans and representatives of the Lithuanian, Polish and Belarusian communities showed their support for Ukraine as it prepared to resist a potential Russian onslaught.
Schoolchildren from the St. Michael’s Ukrainian Cultural School in Hartford, Conn., designed their own posters for the rally. The visiting dignitaries and speakers commented on a number of the creative messages that caught their attention.
Those posters included the following phrases: “Expose, don’t whitewash Putin’s war crimes” and “Putin glorifies Stalin; [Tucker] Carlson roots for mass murderers.”
Mr. Blumenthal assured the crowd that he has urged U.S. President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs immediately and not wait for an invasion of Ukraine.
“Putin must be deterred,” Mr. Blumenthal said, as the crowd struck up the slogan, “Sanctions NOW!”
The Ukrainian American Veterans and parishioners from many different churches were able to attend the noontime rally immediately following morning liturgies.
In the days following the rally, all of the state’s television news networks devoted significant airtime to interviews with local leaders and spokespersons, among them Bohdan Pokora, Natalie Pollock, Lana and Eugene Babij, Mr. Kuzma, Mark Melnyk, Myron Kolinsky, and Prof. Olena Lennon of the University of New Haven in New Haven, Conn.