ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Voices sang and feet marched through downtown Roanoke Friday, rallying in support of Ukraine after a year of war with Russia.
“For freedom, for democracy, and for peace in Ukraine and around the world,” explained Inna Payne, an organizer for the rally who moved to the U.S. fourteen years ago.
She says the rally is in support of friends, family, and troops back home, but also in gratitude to the Roanoke community.
The city temporarily cut ties with Russian sister city Pskov and is flying a Ukrainian flag alongside the American and Virginia flags in Freedom Plaza.
“It’s meant a lot to us, we’re thankful,” she said.
“Stand strong for Ukraine,” said Mayor Sherman Lea in front of the crowd at the rally. “Victory is going to be ours.”
He attended alongside Vice-Mayor Joe Cobb and councilmen Peter Volosin and Luke Priddy.
They were a few of many who shared thoughts and speeches outside Roanoke Library, commending the brave men and women fighting for freedom in Ukraine. Then, the rally took to Elmwood Park, walking through to City Market, where candles were lit.
Tatyana Munsey lit a candle for her home in Dnipro, which was attacked in January. A Russian missile struck an apartment building killing 45 people, according to the Associated Press.
For Munsey, Friday didn’t just mark one year since the war began. It marked 18 years since she stepped foot in America, coming to live with her husband and leaving behind her family in Ukraine. She says her mother and sister are still there because her mother is not mobile enough to escape; Munsey says her mother stays in her apartment and hears bombs.
She joined the dozens who stood silently with their candles for 365 seconds, one for every day of war.
“Your mind can believe, understand it, but your heart cannot understand what’s happened, that day a year ago, and what I feel for Ukraine, it’s a wound, a still bleeding wound,” Munsey said.
After the vigil, many gathered in prayer under the Ukrainian flag at Freedom Plaza.
In an optimistic finale to a day of remembrance, several regathered outside the Library, where they played music and danced. Singing and swinging to Ukrainian pop, it was an ending that mirrors the hope that many rally members say is still alive and well in Roanoke and Ukraine.