Ashland residents join Medford rally supporting Ukraine

Dozens rallied Wednesday in Medford to support Ukraine. Bob Palermini photo/palermini.com
March 3, 2022

Demonstrator: ‘This is not political, this is humanitarian’

By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news

Supporters from throughout the Rogue Valley donned Ukraine’s national colors Wednesday Afternoon, gathering to create a sea of blue and yellow sprouting with sunflowers and signs calling for peace on Vogel Plaza in Medford.

Some in the crowd of dozens had close or indirect ties to Ukraine, while others were simply empathetic over the violent Russian attack on the eastern European country.

Estelle Gray and Sal Edwards of Medford held up a nylon Ukrainian flag as passing vehicles honked in support on the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue .

Gray has been sewing the flags herself and made homemade Ukrainian flag pins for the gathering, which was organized by Oregon District 2 Indivisible. Ashland Peace House and Rogue Valley Veterans for Peace co-sponsored the rally.

Edwards does contract work for a Ukrainian company. She and Gray came down to support the nation and those under siege. 

“This is not political, this is humanitarian,” Gray said.

For Edwards, it is both personal and business. She said her company contracted with a Ukrainian company to develop a piece of software and she’s about six months into the project.  

Prior to the Russian invasion, she was hoping to visit the country, but not now.

Those Edwards has been remotely working with in Ukraine chose to stay and help the government with technology work, one of them even though they have a 2-month-old infant.

Edwards and Gray don’t usually have the American flag flying outside their home, but now both are proud to wave both the American and Ukrainian flags.

Edwards said she has not always been proud to say it, but now says, “We are proud of America today.”

Some in the crowd had even more direct ties to Ukraine, like Dr. Louise Paré, a longtime activist and Ashland resident, who was among those who spoke to the crowd of attendees. Paré brought a large silk scarf from an artist friend in Kyiv from her travels there in 1997.

Donning Ukrainian blue and yellow, and Ukrainian flag-colored face paint on her forehead, she told Ashland.news after speaking to the crowd, how her mother, Pauline Lischak Paré was a third-generation Ukrainian. 

Paré spent several days in the country in 1996, including in Kyiv and a homestay in Cherkasy, located five hours south of Kyiv. While in Ukraine, she conducted research for her doctoral degree in Women’s Spirituality from California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco. She also gave a lecture on Ukrainian feminism and women’s spirituality in Cherkasy.

Paré was active in the pipeline protests at Standing Rock, South Dakota, and helped coordinate an  effort in North Dakota in 1982 for the Nuclear Freeze Referendum. At the time, North Dakota had the largest number of ICBM missile silos anywhere in the country.

Not far away in the crowd, Claude Aron held a homemade sign with a metal sunflower attached from his garden. The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine. 

“I have Ukrainian heritage, my father was born in Khiv,” Aron said. He said his grandfather was a journalist there when it was part of the Soviet Union. “I just feel like I need to support them,” Aron said.

Aron’s father was 5 years old when his parents divorced. Mother and son left Ukraine in 1927. His grandfather stayed behind, but communicated with his son from Kyiv. 

Aron’s father got a visa in 1962, in the middle of the Cold War, to see his father for what would be the last time.

“He was able to reunite with his father,” Aron said, “His father died the next year actually.”

Others in attendance didn’t necessarily have direct ties to Ukraine, but just wanted to show their support, like Sue Wilson of Ashland. The artist held up a painting of sunflowers she painted during the Iraq war, using the colors to reflect the turmoil of the time.

On the back of the painting, she’d recently painted yellow and blue, the colors of the Ukraine national flag and an acknowledgement of the current invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s armies.

“I had to come out here because it’s the least I could do,” Wilson said.

For Talent resident Audra McMurray, dressed in Ukrainian colors and holding a sunflower, coming to the rally was about supporting the ties that binds all humans together.

“We are all neighbors and when one is hurting, the other one should notice,” McMurray said.

“I just have a hard time enjoying the basic luxuries … knowing that people are truly suffering right now,” she added.

  • Dozens rallied Wednesday in Medford to support Ukraine. Ashland.news photo by Holly Dillemuth

Not at the rally, but supporting Ukraine

Not at the rally but supporting Ukraine was Ashland’s Havurah Synagogue Rabbi David Zaslow, whose ancestors lived in Ukraine for three or four centuries leading up to the exile of most Jews between 1895 and 1920. 

“My family would describe ourselves as Ukrainian Jews,” Zaslow told Ashland.news Wednesday. “The complexity is that the Ukrainian population, the Christian side of the population, was virulently anti-semitic. So, we got along with the locals wherever we were living but it was the people in the next town … that were constantly harassing the Jewish population.

“It wasn’t just like I was a Ukrainian Jew, it was like my family was Jewish living in the Ukraine. We weren’t really welcome there,” he added.

Zaslow had planned to share his heritage as a speaker at a rally for Ukraine in Vogel Plaza on Wednesday, but decided not to participate prior to the event. He told Ashland.news on Wednesday morning that many of his congregants likely wouldn’t attend the rally for Ukraine, due to the lack of support they felt for NATO from rally co-sponsor Ashland Peace House. Zaslow continues to support ORD2 Indivisible, which organized the rally.  

“I decided not to go to the rally because my goal was going to be to offer a blessing, a prayer on behalf of the resistance fighters and the soldiers in the Ukraine who need our protection spiritually against the Russian invasion,” he said.

Zaslow continues to support ORD2 Indivisible, which organized the rally.

“I was going to bless the forces of NATO,” he added. “I felt like I was going to be on stage like having a debate.”

Zaslow said he is supportive of peace between Ukraine and Russia.

“Of course make peace with Russia, tell that to the Russians,” Zaslow said, “they’re the invading army.”

Zaslow has been with Havurah Synagogue since 1996. He said members of his paternal grandparent’s family experienced anti-semetism from the Christian population in Elisabethgrad and Zaslov, in central Ukraine.

Almost all of the Jews in Ashland have heritage in or near Ukraine, according to Zaslow.

His paternal grandparents fled Central Ukraine in 1903. Zaslow’s mother, who lived in a province in eastern Poland that once was part of Ukraine later fled at the end of World War I in 1920.

Elizabeth Hallett, executive director of Peace House, issued a statement in response to Zaslow.

“Clearly Peace House is against genocide,” Hallett said in the statement sent to Ashland.news.

“The ‘No To NATO’ headline Rabbi David saw in our Clear Actions newsletter was the title of a program being offered by the organization Code Pink, not a Peace House position, though we see how that could be misconstrued. Both Rabbi Zaslow and Code Pink are entitled to their opinions. There were two educated speakers for the Code Pink event dedicated to avoiding war. They might have had some valid points on the dangers of endless militarization. 

“The ‘Say No to NATO’ program was meant to look at how we as a military-industrial complex might change the cycles that make war inevitable,” she added later in the statement.

Zaslow is encouraging those wishing to donate to efforts in Ukraine to give to two organizations distributing humanitarian aid to Jewish and non-Jewish people in need: American Jewish Committee (AJC) and HIAS (formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society).

Email Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at hollyd@ashland.news.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.
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