As Ukrainians fight for their freedom against Russia’s invasion, thousands marched in Boston Sunday demanding an end to a bloody, unprovoked war that has forced nearly 2 million people from their homes.
Beginning with a morning service at Trinity Church in Copley Square, protesters marched along Boylston Street and gathered for a nearly two-hour rally on Boston Common to build support for Ukraine’s cause.
US Representative Ayanna Pressley, speaking to the crowd from the Parkman Bandstand, demanded an end to what she called a refugee and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
“This is a godless war, but it is not a faceless one,” Pressley said, “which is why we are all here as brothers and sisters in solidarity — to wave our flags, to raise our voices, [and] to send our prayers.”
Mayor Michelle Wu of Boston said the city stood in solidarity with Ukraine.
“This is Boston’s cause,” Wu said to the crowd spread out on the Common. “And we will be here up until the very day that it takes to see democracy prevail.”
The protests marked the second straight Sunday people have marched through Boston, as Russia’s invasion of its neighbor entered its 11th day.
The war has prompted the Ukrainian people to take up arms in support of its military. It has also reportedly touched off the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
President Biden and leaders of NATO countries have called the war unjustified and imposed drastic economic sanctions on Russia.
Massachusetts’ political leaders have also moved to punish Russia economically.
Locally, Governor Charlie Baker signed an executive order on Thursday directing executive branch agencies to end contracts with Russia’s state-owned companies.
US Senator Edward Markey, on Saturday, called for a ban on imports of Russian oil to be added to the sanctions.
“We have a moral moment right now to cut off the money pipeline that is funding the missiles and the tanks and the soldiers that are destroying Ukrainian homes and squashing dissent within Russia,” Markey said.
Sunday’s “Stand with Ukraine” solidarity events were organized by Ukrainian Boston and the Ukrainian Cultural Center for New England, along with Trinity Church.
At the 10 a.m. church service, the Rev. Morgan S. Allen offered prayers for Ukraine and urged people to not ignore the suffering of its people.
“While others march for battle, we march for peace,” Allen said during his sermon.
Worshippers offered their prayers in hopes that people would put down their weapons, and to end war all over the world.
Allen said people faced a choice — whether to resist the “temptation to indulge distraction” from the suffering in Ukraine and other war-ravaged nations.
“Today, this morning, we step towards love, joining with our Ukrainian neighbors, indeed with all people of good will... we pray for an end to violence,” Allen said.
The service included a performance of Ukraine’s national anthem by local Ukrainians, many of whom sang with their hands placed over their hearts.
Afterward, people marched from the iconic church to Boston Common. Many carried blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags, while others held up signs urging support for Ukraine’s fight to keep its independence.
Serhii Tereshchenko of Belmont marched with his wife and two children.
Tereshchenko said he moved to the United States from Mariupol two years ago. Now his brother is on the front lines there fighting the Russians, and Tereshchenko has not heard from him in two days.
“I don’t know if he’s still alive,” Tereshchenko said after the march. “And Putin will not stop bombing.”
Both his and his wife’s parents are still in Mariupol, hiding in basements because it is too dangerous to go outside, he said.
“I hope the world sees what they are doing to Ukraine, because they will not stop with us,” Tereshchenko said.
At the rally, Pressley said there was common cause between the plight of Ukraine and the people of Boston, that “our destinies are tied,” she said.
Putin’s army is inflicting devastating trauma on the Ukrainian people, she said.
“As long as this continues, our collective right to life and humanity will be threatened,” Pressley said.
Wu, who spoke after Pressley, called the war a senseless campaign of violence against the Ukrainian people.
“We will keep coming together to protect democracy, to stand in solidarity with the people whose resistance and resilience continues to inspire the entire world,” Wu said.
She said some of the city’s Russian residents have joined with local Ukrainians to organize recent protests. She said the city will ensure there is no backlash against Russian residents.
During the rally, many of the demonstrators carried smaller flags, and repeatedly shouted a two-part patriotic slogan honoring the people fighting for Ukraine’s future.
“Slava Ukrayini!” which in English means, “Glory to Ukraine!”
The motto was immediately followed by, “Heroyam Slava!”
In English, the phrase means, “Glory to the heroes!”
Several Ukrainian students living in Boston to attend school also spoke out during the rally. One woman who came to the microphone sounded a poignant, heartfelt call to action to save her homeland.
“I cannot accept the fact that I’m losing everything I love: places, people, cultures, traditions,” she said. “We cannot let them kill any more of us!”
Lila Hrabowych of Brookline said she is a first-generation Canadian-Ukrainian whose family fled Ukraine to escape the Nazis. The current war conjures unsettling reminders of the past.
“We’re seeing World War II all over again,” she said. “This is the point where democracy either dies, or lives on. This is where things could go wrong. Countries, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia, Poland — all of them should fear that this could happen to them.”
Yuliia Kolinko of Nashua said she has family in Kerson, Ukraine, where protests have erupted after Russian forces seized the city. She said Ukrainians are passionately defending their independence.
“They will take on the Russian troops with their bare hands,” she said. “I think that should show to the world their resolve and that we should all stand together.”
Kolinko’s partner, Volodymyr Vitichuk, expressed concern that several Eastern European members of NATO are afraid of Russia’s president, Vladmir Putin.
“Now we have children dying in missile explosions and they are still just watching and letting it happen,” he said.
Material from the Associated Press and the Washington Post was used in this report.
Andrew Brinker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewnbrinker. John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.