Mar 4, 2022 - News

Chicago's Eastern Europeans unite on Ukraine

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A vigil and art show are just two events Chicago eastern European groups have organized to support Ukraine.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has ignited a blaze of support from Chicago's prodigious eastern European immigrant communities.

Why it matters: The support reflects the strength of the local eastern European diaspora and shared memories of Soviet dominance.

State of play: Chicagoans of Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, and even Russian heritage have joined with Ukrainian Americans and others at rallies while hosting their own solidarity events.

  • The Lithuanian community held a vigil Wednesday night at the Lithuanian World Center in Lemont.
  • Two Polish artists have organized an art fundraiser today and tomorrow for Ukraine at the Chicago Public Art Group in Bridgeport.

What they're saying: "We see them as brothers and so we're in a high state of 'pissed'-ivity," Jon Platakis of the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame tells Axios.

  • "We have had more than a century of experience under Soviet domination and we have been telling the world this is going to happen."

Haunting memories: For Polish-American TV host and historian Daniel Pogorzelski, the war carries echoes of his own relatives' deaths and persecutions by the Soviets in Kyiv.

  • "Their ghosts linger for us as we read about the thousands of people dying as war breaks out in lands to which our ancestors are connected," he tells Axios. "That kinship of suffering is why I believe folks have been so motivated to help."

What's next: The Service Employees International Union Local 1 — which counts many Polish-American workers in its ranks — is sponsoring a peace vigil today at Daley Plaza.

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