Demonstration Thursday marked one-month anniversary of Russian invasion
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
Tears filled Faina Podolnaya’s eyes as cars passed by the Ashland Plaza Thursday evening, many honking in support of rally goers lining the sidewalk who’d turned out to show support for her home country.
The Ashland resident and violin teacher was among dozens who answered the call by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to show global support for Ukraine on the one-month mark after the Russian invasion of the eastern European country on Feb. 24.
Podolnaya was born and raised in Ukraine, then lived for a time in Kazakhstan before coming to the United States in 1999.
“It’s unbelievable,” Podolnaya said, of the support from so many. She emphasizes that while she cries for her country’s suffering, her tears are not just sad but also hopeful because of all the support people are showing for Ukraine.
Podolnaya has set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for children in Ukraine. As of Friday afternoon, 69 donors have given $10,155.
She reconnected with a childhood friend some years back and has been hearing from her about the conditions of the war on the ground.
“Last time I saw her was when I was 14,” Podolnaya said. “She said that yesterday she got a call from another friend of ours from the same class and she was sitting in a bomb shelter, crying and texting her.”
She said the friend relayed a terrifying scene, filled with fear of being killed during the invasion.
“When I heard that story, I began to cry,” Podolnaya said.
Podolnaya said she feels guilty for being in such a beautiful place as Ashland but loves her new home country.
One of her violin students, Ember Richards, 8, of Ashland, joined her at the rally, clutching a sunflower, Ukraine’s national flower.
Not far away, Richard and Joyce Stanley of Ashland and their son, Jeff Stanley, all dressed in yellow and blue, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, lined the street.
“We really believe in the cause and we reject the invasion,” Joyce Stanley said.
“You can donate, but it’s also, I think, good to stand for something.”
Richard Stanley said he believes there’s more cohesion in the world now around support for Ukraine than there has been for many years.
Joyce and Richard said they were out of town for the Vogel Plaza rally for Ukraine held in Medford on March 2. Like Wednesday’s rally in Ashland, the Medford event was organized by ORD2 Indivisible.
They’re both glad to see the rally for Ukraine is non-partisan.
“This brings all sides together,” Joyce said. “This is what’s amazing, is that Democrats and Republicans are against this.”
“It crosses party lines, gender, race, social economic status,” Richard added.
Demonstrators came from all over Southern Oregon, from Ashland to Eagle Point and Grants Pass to carry signs, flags, and hold up sunflowers in support of the eastern European country.
Grants Pass business owner Carolyn Maue watched the address by Zelensky on Wednesday calling for the demonstrations and decided to change her plans Thursday to come to the event. With her dog Percy, 10, in a side pouch, she held a sunflower and waved at cars passing by.
Percy is no stranger to protests, either. Maue said she adopted him at one previously held in Ashland.
“I wouldn’t come without him,” Maue said.
Maue noted it might sound “corny” but when Zelensky asked for the world to show up in unity and strength, she thought she could definitely do that. She shut her downtown Grants Pass salon down and came to Ashland to show support.
“It’s all I can do to help the Ukrainian people,” Maue said. “You’re so helpless watching all of this … Just watching the news and what the citizens are going through, it just breaks my heart.”
Terrie Martin of ORD2 Indivisible said the gathering was organized quickly but still drew an estimated 50 attendees. With less than 24 hours to put on the event, Martin polled individuals in the group, and got a resounding “yes” to put it on.
“We just said, ‘we’ll just do this and see who shows up’ and there were new people I’ve never met before,” Martin said.
To donate to help children in Ukraine, go online to Faina’s Go Fund Me page at gofundme.com/f/5qne8-help-the-children-of-ukraine.
Reach Ashland.news reporter by Holly Dillemuth at firstname.lastname@example.org.