Bay Area Ukrainians and their supporters are intensifying protests over the Russian invasion of their country, calling for donations and pushing for punitive legislation against their adversary.
“(San Franciscans) can spread their voices, because it’s so far, the best way to help is to help financially, to help support Ukrainian soldiers, help support the wounded,” said Dmytro Kushneruk, the Consulate General of Ukraine in San Francisco. Kushneruk recommends donors send funds directly to the Ukrainian Army.
Nataliya Anon, the Marin-based co-founder of the Ukrainian nonprofit Anhelyk (Angel), said she is especially worried about the children who have lost parents. She has been collecting funds for children who have been orphaned by the war, reaching $100,000 so far.
Anon was among the hundreds who gathered at City Hall earlier this week to protest Vladimir Putin’s invasion, shouting “Russian people against the war,” “Stand with Ukraine” and “Ukrainians will resist.”
“We are here today because … Russia started the attack on Ukraine,” said Kushneruk. “Everyone should care, regardless of the fact that Ukraine is quite far from San Francisco, from California. … It’s a fight for freedom of Ukraine against the fire of evil, which is Russian.” State Senator Scott Wiener stood before the crowd and offered his solidarity.
More than 20,000 Ukrainian Americans live in the Bay Area, along with roughly 800,000 Russian Americans. San Francisco has a rich Ukrainian presence with the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council, a cultural center and several churches. And their community wants to be heard.
Protest organizers said they had three demands: Enact what they called “hellish sanctions” on Russia immediately, including cutting the country off from SWIFT, the international payment system; quickly increase military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine; and isolate Russia in all possible formats on the world stage.
Members of the local Russian community are also offering support. “I’m Russian, I don’t want his war,” said Dara, who did not give her last name. “Many people feel this way. It’s just one man in power.”
For the past eight years, Russia has inched toward invading Ukraine. Now, Putin’s supposed goal is to demilitarize and “de-Nazify” the country despite its Jewish President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Since Ukraine declared independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has been wary of Ukraine’s move to join NATO and the European Union. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, the southern peninsula of the country, when pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was thrown out of office by protesters who wanted to align themselves with Western European countries.
“We’ve always supported our brothers and sisters in Ukraine,” said Asia from Belarus, who did not give her last name. “It’s painful to see there’s no strong backup from Western countries. Ukraine fought for their freedom; to stand up to bullies. If Russia will take over Ukraine, then all NATO Allies are not safe, too.”
Donations to Anhelyk’s cause can be made through their website, Hromada.us/anhelyk.