Phoenix community rallies for Ukraine at Central United Methodist Church

Mayor Gallego also attended the event to show support for the Ukrainian community of Phoenix.
Published: Apr. 16, 2022 at 8:48 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 16, 2022 at 9:50 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Over the last few months, there have been many gatherings and marches in Arizona to show solidarity for Ukraine. On Saturday, another event at Central United Methodist Church in Phoenix brought together different community members. All were united in their support but also accepted that much more could be done.

“I have no words to explain how hard it is,” Yuriy Melnyk said.

The Vice President of the Phoenix branch of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America has family and friends on Ukraine’s front lines, and he has family and friends that have fled the country. What Yuriy--and so many others don’t have-- is clarity about what’s next.

“I really don’t understand how humans can do anything like that,” he said.

But Yuriy and others in Arizona that support Ukraine understand that help comes in various ways. This event at Central United Methodist Church was a chance for so many to keep pushing forward and to keep demanding more.

“Phoenix is united that we stand with Ukraine,” Phoenix mayor Kate Gallego said. “And what is happening is unacceptable.”

Gallego joined other Ukrainian community leaders in turning words into action. In her case, that meant making sure the city of Phoenix no longer invests in Russia-backed interests. Volunteers at the event sold Ukrainian flags and food and mingled with friends and strangers both in the church and on Central Avenue. All money raised will go to the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, and the St. Mary’s Protectress Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Phoenix.

“We would like more weapons,” St. Mary’s church president Victor Szwez said. “We would like fighter jets. We need to protect the Ukrainian people.”

Some of those Ukrainians just arrived in Arizona within the last few months or weeks. For them, seeing dozens gather at Central United Methodist Church was a much-needed sign of hope. Karolina Yermak was born and raised in Kyiv. She worries for the safety of those in her homeland but is grateful to have found a second family of activists in Arizona.

“This is wonderful,” Yermak said. “This is great. It’s another opportunity for me to share posts with my friends who need support. It’s just great that Ukrainians can come here, can stay, and be in a safe place.”

A place to look ahead, or in Damian Rodriguez and his wife Nina’s case, even get married.

“One week ago, I was in the Ukraine,” Nina said. “And now I’m here in Phoenix, just got married. It’s a little weird, a tough wait, actually. But it’s worth it.”