Upwards of a thousand individuals gathered Monday on the Utah Capitol, the place, for the primary time within the state’s historical past, the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag flew alongside the U.S. and Utah flags.
The rally was a wanted present of help for the embattled European nation, mentioned Ivan Bagmet, a Ukrainian man who was pressured to flee together with his household to the U.S. practically eight years in the past.
As a Ukrainian nationalist dwelling in Donetsk — one of many areas that Russian President Vladimir Putin not too long ago declared impartial as a pretext for invasion — Bagmet informed The Salt Lake Tribune that he confronted harsh persecution that culminated in an try on his life in 2014.
The following day, his younger household of 4 fled to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, after which flew to Utah.
“[The invasion] is not only Ukraine’s downside, it’s everybody else’s downside as effectively,” he mentioned, referencing Putin’s ominous remarks about nuclear arms. “It’s not going to cease in Ukraine, and proper now it’s a risk to the entire world, together with [the] United States.”
All through the rally, Ukrainians within the crowd raised impassioned shouts of their native language, voicing help for his or her countrymen who at the moment are preventing for his or her lives half a world away. For them, even the Ukrainians dwelling in Utah, Russia’s invasion hits near dwelling.
Bagmet mentioned he has household and pals nonetheless dwelling in Donetsk and Kyiv, together with his mother and father and in-laws.
“As quickly because it began, mainly, my brother referred to as me. It was like 5:38 a.m. within the morning, Ukrainian time,” he mentioned. “For me, it was, like, mainly center of the day. … He simply awoke at 5:38 a.m. as a result of the constructing was shaking from explosions. And he simply referred to as me and mentioned, ‘Hey, it seems prefer it’s began.’”
What adopted had been days spent on the cellphone, checking in on family members, ensuring that everybody was OK.
Up to now, Ukrainian forces have managed to stymie the Russian invasion.
“I do know that nations [are] normally born in tears and blood, and I imagine that’s what’s happening with Ukrainian individuals proper now,” Bagmet mentioned. “As a result of Putin mentioned he [was] going to take over Ukraine inside 48 hours. As you already know, it’s been 5 days … and Ukrainian individuals [are] preventing again.”
Regardless of the satisfaction he has in his nation, and his fellow nationalists, Bagmet mentioned Ukraine alone won’t be able to win this warfare. Russia is just too skilled and is a far larger army energy than its neighbor.
So Ukraine is counting on different nations to offer support.
“As soon as, eight years in the past, I dwell in a peaceable nation,” Bagmet mentioned, warning that the peaceable life loved by many Individuals is fragile. “So, please, don’t be indifferent. Please, attempt to help when you can.”
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and some lawmakers spoke on the rally, held to indicate solidarity with Ukrainians in Europe and in Utah after an identical occasion on the Capitol on Saturday.
Attendees held yellow flowers, waved flags, and joined in chants of “Ukraine!” and “Zelensky!” — referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who the audio system usually referred to as a “hero.”
Rep. Jordan Teuscher, D-South Jordan, mentioned Russia’s assault on Ukraine impacts not solely Ukrainians like his spouse and her household, but in addition Utahns.
“This assault towards Ukraine is not only an assault towards Ukraine, however an assault towards democracy and an assault towards each single one in every of us,” he mentioned.
The governor and lieutenant governor echoed that sentiment of their transient remarks.
“Our horror at what’s unfolding in Europe with our pals is heightened by the conclusion that freedom, democracy, justice and self-determination is underneath assault,” Henderson mentioned. “We stand with Ukraine not simply due to what’s occurring to its individuals … but in addition as a result of the invasion right into a sovereign nation highlights the fragility of all that we maintain pricey.”
The lieutenant governor additionally quoted Sen. Mitt Romney, referring to Putin as a “small, evil, feral-eyed man” who she mentioned, “deserves each little bit of scorn and condemnation for his evil actions.”
Romney appeared on CNN on Sunday and mentioned Republicans’ help of the Russian president was “nearly treasonous.”
In his speech, Cox expressed love for the 1,500 Ukrainians dwelling within the state, however he additionally spoke to Utah’s Russian inhabitants, saying, “We don’t maintain you liable for the acts of a madman.”
Echoing his weblog submit printed on-line Monday, Cox urged Utahns to place apart division, although the U.S. is “flawed,” he mentioned.
“Our Ukrainian pals are reminding us what it means to be American,” Cox mentioned on the rally. “They want us. They want a united us. They want the perfect of us. And we want them.”
Mayor Erin Mendenhall, who spoke underneath a sky she described as “nearly as blue because the stripe on the Ukrainian flag,” mentioned Russia’s assault on Ukraine was private for her.
Her household fled Russian-occupied Lithuania throughout World Conflict II, she mentioned, and so they had been by no means ready to return. “Our democracy is barely as secure as our dedication to it,” she mentioned.
Mendenhall additionally referred to as on Utahns to ship help to the Salt Lake Metropolis sister cities of Chernivtsi in Ukraine, and Izhevsk in Russia.
The rally was held on one other busy day on the Utah Legislature, however Republican Home Speaker Rep. Brad Wilson mentioned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine warranted lawmakers hitting the “pause button.”
Simply hours earlier than the rally, the Utah Legislature unanimously handed a invoice denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and urging the U.S. federal authorities to “restore peace in Europe.”
The rally closed with a prayer from Rabbi Samuel Spector of Congregation Kol Ami, in addition to a prayer in Ukrainian from a girl carrying a blue scarf who was recognized solely as Anna.
The rally’s host, entrepreneur Owen Fuller, mentioned that the Utah Capitol could be lit up in yellow and blue for Ukraine as soon as the sky darkened Monday night, as had been the governor’s mansion, the College of Utah’s block U. and plenty of companies all through Salt Lake Metropolis and the state.
Cox mentioned that the one different time the Utah Capitol has been lit up was in the course of the 2002 Winter Olympics.