Alaskans reflect on 1-year anniversary of Ukraine war

Alaskans reflect on 1-year anniversary of Ukraine war
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 7:25 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A night of reflection on Wednesday brought out many Alaskans who stand with Ukraine as the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country approaches.

A Ukrainian refugee in attendance shared a first-hand account of when the war — which began on Feb. 24, 2022, when Russian President Vladimir Putin called a “special military operation” into the country of Ukraine — initially started.

“So we wake up from an explosion ... Loud, massive explosion ... My wife just asks what this is, and I say it’s the beginning of war,” Andrii Yakymets recalled through a translator.

Wednesday was a night meant to help mark all that has happened within the past year. Unity was the theme, along with remembering those who have given their lives, those who are still fighting, and those who are in Alaska making new lives for themselves.

“We want to honor the resilience of our new Ukrainian neighbors,” said Zori Opanasevych, director of the New Chance Inc. Ukraine Relief Program. “We want to kind of mark what happened in Ukraine this past year. It’s been a tragedy, this year has been full of tragedy.”

The darkness has in turn shone a light on many heroes, unwavering bravery, and intense resilience. More than 14 million Ukrainians have been displaced since the start of the war, according to the United Nations. Catholic Social Services has helped settle more than 500 Ukrainian refugees in Alaska.

“We’re also here to celebrate the resilience of the folks who have come to our state, who have resettled here but are really becoming a part of the community,” Catholic Social Services Director Robin Dempsey said.

Catholic Social Services says it wants to not only lend support, but stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and help others do the same.

To them, however, this anniversary is no celebration.

“We, along with all of the Ukrainians, had hoped that it would be over by now, but it’s here,” Opanasevych said.

It’s an important step to mark one full year since the war began and reflect on all that has happened.