Feb 25, 2022 - News

Charlotte shows support for Ukraine

Protestors marched from Romare Bearden Park to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center with a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department escort. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

Just like everyone, everywhere, we’re watching what’s unfolding in Ukraine.

State of play: More than 150 people gathered in Romare Bearden Park on Thursday afternoon following the invasion by Russian forces.

  • Some activists sang the Ukrainian national anthem and chanted, “stop the war.”
  • They marched around the perimeter of the park, and then were led in a prayer.
An activist led everyone in a prayer. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

After an hour of protesting, CMPD arrived. One of the organizers told the officers the group wanted to march from the park to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.

  • With a police escort and Ukrainian flags flying high, they marched.
  • Cars honked in support as the group made its way through Uptown.
Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
Preparing to march to the government center. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

By the numbers: Charlotte has more than 10,000 Ukrainian residents — more than any other city in the state.

Among them is Natalya Spirin, whose family moved here after the fall of the Soviet Union. It was 1994 and she was eight years old.

  • “Immigrants have a difficult time, but my grandparents and my mom always said they came here for me, for the next generation, and a lot of that are newly here in the United States are doing the same thing,” Spirin said. “They want a better future for their children.”
  • Growing up she said she didn’t have much, but living here provided opportunities.

Today, she’s married with a master’s degree. Her husband is Russian. She told us he wanted to attend the protest to show support.

  • Her family remains in Ukraine, hiding in a cellar, afraid to come out, she told Axios through tears.

Cihovsky Volodymyr and his family moved to the United States in 2009. They’ve been in Charlotte since 2015.

  • He still feels shocked and finds it impossible to believe Russia invaded Ukraine in the 21st century, describing the two countries as, “sister and brother,” and saying how many people have family on both sides of the border.

He and other activists hope to speak with Charlotte City Council leaders during their next meeting on Feb. 28 at the government center.

Outside the government center. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
Cihovsky Volodymyr and his family outside the government center. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios
  • When asked what Charlotte can do, he said he knows one person from Charlotte cannot solve this, but they have a phrase, “water breaks the stone,” meaning it takes everyone.
Ukraine flag flying high. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

Zoom in: When we look back in 10, 20, 30 years, we may not remember every detail — like what a gloomy day yesterday was —  but we will remember how it felt.

Of note: Axios’ Sophia Cai reported, “the Biden administration is considering offering Temporary Protected Status to Ukrainians, per a Senate office that’s had staff-level conversations with administration officials.”

The bottom line: We know Russia’s invasion will have ripple effects around the globe. We just don’t know to what extent yet.

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