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Ukrainian community gathers in remembrance

Vigil and prayers at Ashton Ukrainian Centre marks second anniversary of war.

Peace vigils and gatherings were held by Ukrainian communities across the country and around the world on Saturday, including Tameside.

February 24 marked the second anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

In London crowds gathered to mark the date for a remembrance in Trafalgar Square. Closer to home Greater Manchester Ukrainians gathered at Piccadilly Gardens, something they have done every Saturday since the start of the invasion, calling for an end to the war.

Tameside has its own active Ukrainian community and members of the Ashton Ukrainian Centre on Stockport Road came together for a short service, reflection and prayers on Saturday afternoon.

Together they saluted the courage of Ukraine’s armed forces and the Ukrainian nation.

Petro Rewko, who is National Chairman of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, with his home community in Ashton, says Ukrainians remain “extremely grateful” to the UK for its support and assistance.

“We have witnessed 730 days of destruction of Ukraine, its cities and villages, its infrastructure, killings of civilians, prisoners and wounded, incredible losses and suffering, violence and displacement of millions of people left homeless, separation from family and friends, an educational crisis for children and students, a crisis in mental health,” he said.

“All of this horror has been caused by the Russian Federation when it unleashed its brutal full scale invasion on 24th February, 2022.

“At the outset, Ukrainians experienced both fear and shock… but Russia failed. Ukraine did not fall, did not surrender, did not lose its statehood or independence. On the contrary, Ukrainians all over the world remain united and will continue to stand against illegal aggression.”

Figures for casualties in the war are shrouded in secrecy by both sides and difficult to ascertain.

But the United Nations says more than 30,000 civilians have been killed or injured. More than 24,000 Ukrainian soldiers and more than 45,000 Russian soldiers have been killed according to official figures, but the true figures are believed to be much higher, with estimates suggesting as many as 70,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died and 315,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured.

One thing that is known is that 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes with more than six million leaving to live in other countries, most in Poland, but some too have come not only to the UK, but to join Ukrainian communities across Greater Manchester including Tameside.

Petro concluded: “Over the past two years, millions of displaced Ukrainians have had to reconstruct their lives in other countries. We are confident that they will return to a free Ukraine, where they will make an incredible contribution towards the reconstruction of their homeland into a fully free, democratic, modern, safe and vibrant country. In the battle for a better tomorrow, Ukraine will prevail.”

• We’ll have a special report on this week’s Reporter Show on Tameside Radio 103.6FM as we reflect on the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


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