It’s been over a week since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.
In that short period of time, Ukrainian families have lost their homes, their communities and their lives.
Ignoring agreed ceasefires and warnings from world leaders, President Putin’s onslaught continues with no end in sight.
READ MORE: Emotional moment Ukrainian man completes 45-mile run for family back home as protesters cheer in Piccadilly Gardens
At an event organized by the Ukrainian Cultural Center ‘Dnipro’ Manchester group, hundreds of people gathered in Manchester city center on Saturday (March 5) to send a powerful message of love and support to Ukraine.
Speakers told crowds ‘the world has woken up’ and declared ‘long live Ukraine’, while people chanted ‘Stop the War, Stop Putin’ with flags, banners and placards before breaking out into song in unity.
“It is important that so many people showed up in Manchester today,” Andrey Smolenko, volunteer at the Cultural Center and admin of the UK Ukraine group, told the MEN
“If this situation were to happen in Manchester, it would be amazingly important to know that there was someone out there that was helping, supporting and protesting for us.
“It is about keeping people’s spirits high and showing up when it is most needed.
“Ukraine is at the frontier of the fight against Putin and his military machine right now.
“The rest of the world is able to have a peaceful night, but if Ukraine loses this fight then it is only a matter of time before he goes further.”
Amongst those in the crowd were Ethi, Sam, Lexi and Isabelle Wilson, a young family from Timperley.
“I’m half-Ukrainian and we can’t sit back and do nothing,” Ethi said.
“It’s really hard to help when you’re so far away but what we can do is show solidarity, we can pass on the message that it’s not okay and there are people out there who need help.”
Ethi said she has been volunteering with the Polish community at the Beehouse on Deansgate Locks, who have been inundated with donations to send to Ukraine.
“It breaks my heart,” she confessed.
“We’ve been collecting toys, nappies and food for people and these toys should be played by children who are safe and happy at home.
“I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to understand that this is happening on our doorstep and we need to do more.”
Ethi said she hopes more people will recognize the gravitas of the situation in Ukraine, and encourage world leaders to take more action.
“All of my mum’s family are in Ukraine and they are desperately trying to get out,” she added.
“We have relatives who have managed to come to Greece for now and I’m just hoping the visa waivers can be extended so we can bring family over here.
“Many people may think that Ukraine is so far away and it doesn’t affect them but tomorrow it could be here.
“This kind of violence and behavior can escalate so quickly. The more we allow it, the more it passes on a message that it’s okay and it’s really not.”
Lisa Short attended the protest with her daughter Mia Skolosdra-Short, who has just recently changed her name to include her mum’s original Ukraine surname.
“We’re here today to support the Ukrainian people,” Lisa said.
“I’m a third-generation Ukrainian. My granddad, Bastille Skolosdra, came over to Britain just after the second world war.
“He fought with the Ukrainian Partisan Army at just 16 years old, fighting for the freedom and independence of Ukraine against the Russians, which is a fight that is now carrying on again 75 years later.
“We’ve come to add to the numbers and add to the noise. I think what’s happening is disgusting and there’s just no need.
“All people want their freedom, to live like you and I, and it’s not really too much to ask for.
“There’s no sense in it and I can’t see where it’s going to end. If I could just go over there, I would go and fight.”
Mia said young people also need to take note and be aware of the situation in Ukraine right now.
“I think protests help to keep up the awareness,” she explained.
“The government needs to be held accountable and do more.
“People need to be sharing news from Ukraine on social media and not propaganda or fake news, to make sure people are aware of what’s happening.”
Lisa added: “People have started to realize that this isn’t just Ukraine’s war – this is all of us.
“What is Putin going to do next when he is given more power and strength? It’s terrifying.”
Amongst the sea of bright blue and yellow Ukrainian flags, there were also flags depicting other countries from Georgia, the United Kingdom and even Hong Kong.
Wendy and Andrew, who moved to the UK from Hong Kong last year, said they had turned up to show their support.
“We read the stories about Ukrainian’s fighting for their freedom,” Wendy said.
“We share the same values just like Ukrainian people because we have had similar stories in Hong Kong and we understand their missions to fight for democracy.”
The pair said they were impressed by how many people from different countries and backgrounds had shown up to the event.
“It’s great to see so many people here from different backgrounds,” Wendy added.
“I see a lot of people from Hong Kong and different counties here. We all share the same views and we don’t want war to happen.”
Also in attendance were a couple Andrew and Anastasia, who moved to the UK from the western city of Chernivtsi in Ukraine five years ago.
Anastacia had a sign simply saying ”Stop War’, while Andrew’s message called for a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
“The situation in Ukraine is not good at all,” Andrew said.
“People are showing up here and all around the world to support our country and our people but I think there’s always space to do more – and we really need that more now because later could be too late.
“We really hope all people and world leaders will finally take action and do something really useful that will help our people and save lives.
“At the end of the day, it’s lives that matter and we really hope they can close our sky. If they at least do that for us, we will do the rest.”
Andrew said speaks to family members back home and is concerned things are getting worse.
He added: “We have family back home who are afraid to leave and drive through Ukraine because they don’t know what will happen – there’s not a lot of words that can describe the situation.
“It’s one thing reading the news but it’s another thing when you’re on a call with your family and you hear something in the background that you would never expect to hear in 2022.”
Speaking about Russia’s leader, Andrew said he cannot even say his name anymore because it fills him with so much upset.
“We have one word to describe that one guy in particular,” Andrew said.
“He is a killer and he thinks he is invincible.
“If no one stops him now, it’s only time before our neighbors are next. Our world leaders need to act now before it’s too late.”
Stay up to date on the Ukrainian conflict via our live blog here
Read more on the Ukrainian conflict: ‘Astonishing courage’: Praise for Brits ambushed and shot down by Russian soldiers
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