By Leah Dorotiak, (Лія Доротяк), social media manager at Huddersfield Ukrainian Club

Huddersfield’s Ukrainian community is organising a peaceful rally this Saturday in Leeds city centre to highlight ongoing Russian aggression and call for peace in Europe.

The event is part of the global #StandWithUkraine campaign to support Ukrainian people’s right to live in peace freely on their sovereign territory. Our cultural hub will be joined by Ukrainian communities from other neighbouring towns and cities including Leeds, Bradford, Rochdale, Manchester, Ashton and Halifax, as well as supporters of the diaspora.

Our Ukrainian community feel that it is more important than ever to stand with Ukraine. When founded in 1948, our centre became a “home away from home” for the Ukrainian exiles who couldn’t return to their homeland.

Huddersfield’s members have always stood in solidarity with Ukraine throughout the period of Soviet Rule, and through the 30 years of independence. Once again, the Ukrainian people find themselves having to stand for the right to live freely on their own land.

What is happening in Ukraine?

Since invading Ukraine in 2014 and illegally annexing Crimea, Russia has waged an increasingly aggressive war in the East Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, with over 13,000 dead, over 35,000 wounded, and 1.5 million internally displaced people. (Source: UNOHCR)

For several weeks now, Russia has been amassing troops in areas encircling the Ukrainian border, and even inside the country’s own territory.

With the threat of a full-scale Russian invasion ever-present, our community concerns surrounding family and friends in Ukraine are growing fast. My family live in the West of the country in Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk.

The last time I spoke with them, they told me how they were stockpiling food to prepare for an invasion. I’ve also heard that ordinary citizens in Eastern Ukraine are pulling together in their masses to form a so-called ‘Home Front’ – eerily reminiscent of that in Britain in the Second World War.

Why is it important to raise awareness?

I often think of my relatives, such as my Дідо (grandfather), who were forced to flee Ukraine as recent as 70 years ago. Like many other diasporas, he spent most of his life longing to have a sovereign Ukraine.

The first time some of our members visited a newly independent Ukraine after 1991, they were ecstatic to see simple things such as road signs, which were now in Ukrainian rather than the state-imposed Russian language.

My grandfather only got to enjoy six years of an independent country but our family and friends should be able to experience it forever.

To other communities, and to you, I ask for your help in raising awareness.

A war in Ukraine might not impact your life right now, nor in the near future. But the effects will be felt elsewhere. Apart from the obvious humanitarian crisis that comes with this situation, the financial and political destabilisation Putin will create in Europe is unprecedented.

READ MORE: The pride and passion of Huddersfield Ukrainian community

A note from our chairman John Kybaluk who said: “All eyes are on Ukraine right now as the situation there unfolds. We hope that the UK Government continues its path of supporting Ukraine to maintain the integrity of its borders, as is its right as a free nation.”

As the US, NATO and UK send troops to neighbouring Eastern European countries, it becomes obvious that the threat is much larger than one country.

There has been war in Ukraine, in Europe, since 2014. Are you raising awareness?

The Ukrainian community in the North of England will gather outside Leeds Town Hall this Saturday January 29 at 1pm to make a statement of disapproval of Russia’s aggressive political stance.

If you would like to show solidarity with the Ukrainian nation and the rest of Europe, please feel free to join us. The Facebook event link can be found here.

Meanwhile, Jason McCartney, MP for Colne Valley, said: “I stand with the Ukrainian people against the bullying tactics from Russia.

“We all need to work together to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, against Putin’s irresponsible and dangerous behaviour.

“I welcome the British Government position and echo the words of the Foreign Secretary where she said that Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy.

“As the UK and our partners have said repeatedly, any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with severe costs.”

About Huddersfield Ukrainian Club:

Huddersfield Ukrainian Club in Edgerton is a branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain. The main goal of our Association is to develop, promote and support the interests of the Ukrainian community in the UK.

Our branch, which is one of 25 throughout the country, was formed in 1956 by approximately 170 members. We continue to promote Ukrainian traditions and culture along with the Ukrainian language as a cultural and educational centre.