‘We stand shoulder to shoulder’: York holds rally in solidarity with Ukraine

‘Ukraine’s heart is breaking but it will never stop beating’

A rally in solidarity with the people of Ukraine took place in St Helen’s Square, York this afternoon.

Hundreds attended and listened to speakers including York MPs Rachael Maskell and Julian Sturdy, the Mayor of York, the Archbishop of York, and two Ukrainian York residents who fled the conflict.

Rachael Maskell MP said: “Ukraine’s heart is breaking but it will never stop beating.”

Attendees gathered in St Helen’s Square at 2:30pm as Rachael Maskell MP opened the proceedings. She thanked the “bravery of journalists in Ukraine risking all to spread truth” and the bravery of the Russian people protesting the conflict.

She said: “Russia is moving but we must keep pushing. We all must be prepared to open our wallets, our hearts, and our homes. Refugees are our brothers and sisters no matter which atrocity they escaped from. Ukraine’s heart is breaking but it will never stop beating.”

Rachael Maskell’s speech was greeted by cheers from the crowds and was followed by a speech from Julian Sturdy MP who said: “Let there be no doubt that this is Putin’s war and Putin’s war alone. It represents an attack on sovereignty, freedom and the democratic values we hold. We cannot stand idly. It is our moral duty to offer them a home and be their neighbors. We stand shoulder to shoulder.”

Words were also heard from the Mayor of York who said: “Ukraine we stand with you, we are with you.”

The Archbishop of York lead a prayer for the people of Ukraine. He said: “The invasion of Ukraine is an unspeakable evil. We stand with the people of Ukraine and the people across the world. I’m thinking of the brave people in Russia protesting on the streets.

“We, the people of York, call on the Government to do all they can.”

The crowds then heard from two Ukrainian residents of York who arrived safely back in York after escaping the conflict. They talked about their experiences briefly but proceeded to move on because “we are safe, we got out” and instead discussed the Ukrainian citizens still in grave danger.

Originating from the city of Kharkiv, they said: “In my city Kharkiv yesterday, at least 72 children and babies lost their parents. Innocent civilians are dying every day.

“We had careers, families, plans and dreams and they all immediately disappeared. People are living in their basements like rats.”

Many more speeches were heard including representatives from Refuge Action York, City of Sanctuary and University of York Student Union President Patrick O’Donnell. O’Donnell highlighted the solidarity of the York community for coming together and donating hundreds of items to those affected by the crisis.

He also addressed the MPs in attendance saying: “When you go back to Westminster next week, tell the Home Office to do more and tell Priti Patel to do more.” This caused a huge cheer and round of applause from the crowd.

The rally concluded with a cheer of “Glory to Ukraine!” and chants started by members of the crowd shouting: “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”

The mood at the rally was one of sadness but also of  great solidarity and strength for the people of Ukraine.

For further video footage of the rally head to our Instagram story @theyorktab.

Ways you can help the people of Ukraine include remaining informed on the situation and vigilant about information shared on social mediadonating money to verified organisations and providing supplies for Ukrainian residentsFor more information about how you can get involved, click here.  

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