Australian Ukrainians supporting victims of Russian invasion
Ukrainian communities across Australia are rallying to support the people of their homeland as Russia ramps up a brutal military invasion of the beleaguered nation.
Fund raising events are being planned across the country to raise money for a humanitarian support effort. And messages of moral support are flowing.
President of the Victorian Ukrainian Association Slawko Kohut said that what was happening in Ukraine was “horrifying”.
“We are all worried sick about what’s happening in Ukraine. We all have friends and family there. It’s very tough,” Mr Kohut said.
“It is heart wrenching to see what is happening. All that has been achieved over eight years of democracy is in danger of being swept away.
“We have launched a humanitarian aid effort and we are collecting money to send to Ukraine to support people,’ he said.
A rally was held by Ukrainians in Melbourne recently and another vigil is planned. There are also protests planned for outside the Russian embassy in Canberra.
“We are gathering in what is effectively a group hug. We all have different issues and we will share them,” Mr Kohut said.
There are 45,000 members of the Ukrainian community in Australia, 11,000 of them in Victoria.
Mr Kohut called on all Australians to show solidarity with Ukraine.
“It’s important we all do what we can to support the people of Ukraine whether that be with humanitarian support or activism,” he said.
“In Ukraine today many people are preparing to defend their homeland. We in Australia must be ready to stand in their corner, to support them as we have been doing since 2015.”
Mr Kohut said the Ukrainian community was calling on Russia to end the war.
“Putin should stop the war get out of Ukraine. He should also stop telling lies and untruths,” he said.
“He has misrepresented Ukrainian history to support his own unbelievable ridiculous statements.
“But he’s been very clever in how he’s planned the war. The world has sat by and watched as things have transpired.
“Like Hitler he has pretended to negotiate but ultimately had no intention of talking.
“He put up demands he knew would be rejected and all the while, he was planning to attack,” Mr Kohut said.
The Australian Ukrainian community traces its antecedents to the arrival of post-World War II refugees from war torn Europe.
Many of these were ‘displaced persons’ and began arriving in 1948. Prior to 1948 only a small number had landed in Australia.
One of the first was Ukrainian to arrive was Nicolai Miklouho-Maclay, an ethnographer and naturalist who visited Australia in 1878, and was responsible for the building of Australia’s first biological field station at Watson’s Bay in NSW.
Today, there is a vibrant Ukrainian community, predominantly living in Melbourne and Sydney.
There are also Ukrainian centres in Geelong, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra. Smaller centres exist in Queanbeyan, Hobart, Newcastle, Moe, Albury-Wodonga, and Northam.
The 1950’s saw a huge birth of community organisations, churches and centres.
Ukrainians are proud of their traditions and their seven-thousand-year-old culture.
Over the years, Ukrainians have built a network of churches, community centres, financial institutions and language schools throughout Australia.
There are Ukrainian studies centres at Monash and Macquarie universities.
Over the decades, Ukrainian Australians have had concerns about the lack of human and political rights in Ukraine – until Ukraine gained its independence on 24 August 1991.