Local residents and city officials attended a rally in Morgan Hill in support of Ukraine and its people as the eastern European nation faces an ongoing invasion from neighboring Russia.
Svetlana Medvinsky, a Morgan Hill resident who emigrated to the U.S. from Kyiv, Ukraine as a child, was one of the lead organizers of the Feb. 27 rally, which took place at the Downtown Morgan Hill Amphitheater.
“While watching what is transpiring in my motherland, I felt compelled to channel my anger, hurt and sorrow in a meaningful way,” said Medvinsky, who was almost 7 when she left Ukraine with her parents and family.
Medvinsky saw a social media post last week by another Morgan Hill resident, Robert Guynn, promoting peace in Ukraine. She was inspired by the post to organize a gathering to spread awareness, and contacted Guynn who eagerly agreed to help.
Nearly 200 people, including children and city officials, attended the outdoor rally in downtown Morgan Hill. Among those in attendance were Mayor Rich Constantine and Councilmembers Rene Spring and Yvonne Martinez Beltran.
Medvinsky also noted that MHPD officers stopped by to show their support.
“Standing on the stage and seeing so many people come out to represent Ukraine truly filled my heart with joy,” Medvinsky said in an email to the Times. “We cannot let evil win. We cannot let greed win. We cannot let hate win. Love defeats hate. Let’s give peace a chance.”
Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. The invasion has been met with widespread condemnation by the international community, including North American and European governments.
Detailed estimates of casualties in Ukraine since Feb. 24 vary depending on the source. The United Nations estimates that at least 3,300 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the Russian attack began. More than 1 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion, according to U.N. estimates.
Guynn, a professional photographer, said he wanted to help raise awareness of the invasion because he has a friend in Ukraine who is an artist. The social media post that caught Medvinsky’s eye included a quote from the late singer/songwriter John Lennon: “Give peace a chance.”
He helped Medvinsky organize the Feb. 27 rally by contacting city officials and community members who were likely to help secure the venue and attend the demonstration. “We had about 24 hours to put it all together,” Guynn said in an email. “We made ribbons and signs and put all the information out on social media…I brought my camera and decided to document the event.”
He added that his friend in Ukraine is among those who had to flee the combat, leaving her art behind as she found safety in another European country.
“This Morgan Hill event was a great way to show unity and support for Ukraine and its people,” Guynn said.
Medvinsky, who works as a psychologist, has lived in Morgan Hill with her husband and two sons since 2018. She has lived in California since she landed in the U.S. more than 30 years ago.
City councilmembers addressed the turmoil in Ukraine and showed their support for those affected at the March 2 meeting. Spring, who moved to the U.S. from Switzerland several years ago, expressed his solidarity with Ukraine as a fellow European native.
“We have people from Ukraine living in our community, and they have family members in Ukraine as we speak,” Spring said. “They are desperate and helpless and horrified of what’s happening, and there is so little they can do. My heart and thoughts go out to all of them, as well as to all the people in Ukraine.”
At Spring’s request, the city council observed a moment of silence for Ukraine and its people during the online meeting.
Councilmember John McKay urged people to donate to the international nonprofit World Central Kitchen if they want to help with monetary donations. The organization has served thousands of meals to refugees fleeing Ukraine since the invasion began, according to their website, wck.org.
Constantine adjourned the March 2 meeting “in honor of the Ukrainian people.”