As Russian troops entered Ukraine, Ukrainians living in Colorado united outside the state Capitol on Thursday and Gov. Jared Polis announced the state will work to ensure it is not offering any financial support to Russia.
Scores of people waving Ukrainian flags and hoisting signs bearing slogans including “Putin! Hands off Ukraine!” and “Support Ukraine, save democracy in the world!” filled the Capitol’s front steps. Colorado is home to about 11,000 Ukrainians, the governor’s office said.
Oleksandra Chub, 27, moved to Denver from Ukraine three years ago for work. She fought through a sleepless night as she contacted family and friends in Ukraine amid explosions from attacks launched by Russian troops. “They’re safe right now, but I don’t know what can happen tomorrow,” Chub said. “I’m really afraid, and I can’t go home. This is not a conflict. This is a full-scale war.”
Max Khomutskyi, of Lakewood, said he barely took his eyes off his phone at the Colorado Capitol as he shared how his family in Ukraine evacuated the Ukrainian capital Thursday morning after waking up to the sounds of bombs. “We should stop Putin or else this is going to be a huge war,” Khomutskyi said. “I am hurting. I’m feeling exhausted that I’m here and I can’t help them.”
Dasha Zallis, a 26-year-old Denverite, who is originally from Russia and still has family living there. Zallis joined Ukrainian supporters Thursday and burst into tears when asked why she attended the rally. “I can’t believe this is happening,” Zallis said. “Putin is to blame. What he’s doing is cruel to the Ukrainian people. I just want all of this to stop.”
Kateryna Popova, a 37-year-old Ukrainian living in Castle Pines, said she couldn’t sleep all night as she tried getting in contact with her mother, father and extended family in Ukraine. “My mom answered and said she was in a bomb shelter,” Popova said. “It’s crazy.”
Popova canceled a vacation to Miami she was intending to take. “It’s not a time to be relaxed right now,” Popova said. “I am afraid that soon there will be no internet or connection to them.”
Markian Hawryluk, a first-generation Ukrainian-American and a Colorado-based journalist with Kaiser Health News, said he hopes Americans think of the crisis as an American issue rather than a Ukrainian issue. “A lot of people might not be familiar with Ukraine,” Hawryluk said.
“It’s far away. People you’ve never met. But… this is a fundamental shift in the world situation. It’s broken a peace that we had since World War II, a peace that American soldiers fought for to establish and make the world a safer place. When Russia invades a democratic country with no provocation and no animosity toward Russia, it upsets the world order. If we don’t now stand up for the oppressed, who is going to stand up when we are the oppressed ones?”
Gov. Jared Polis announced new state actions Thursday in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging Congress to suspend the federal gas tax and “double down on a rapid clean energy transition to ensure that our energy future cannot be tied to geopolitical conflicts and global commodities,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.
“Colorado will not stand for this attack on freedom and democracy,” Polis said in a statement. “Our country must make Putin pay and continue to use our economic power to push back on Russia’s aggressive invasion of Ukraine.”
Polis said Colorado will welcome Ukrainian refugees and look into whether the state has any contracts or investments with Russian entities that it should end or divest from, and urge higher education institutions to review and reconsider any grants or projects tied with Russia.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: RMPBS.ORG