Rally for Ukraine in Balboa Park

Tanya Young of Sorrento Valley says her relatives in Ukraine are very nervous “but kind of cool” as they watch for a feared Russian invasion.

But should President Putin order an attack, she said, her compatriots “will tear the Russians with our teeth.”

Young, joined by her New Jersey-born husband Donald Young, was among 80 people of all ages who rallied at the base of the El Cid Statue in Balboa Park, chanting “Help Ukraine defend itself, “Stand up to aggression” and both “God bless Ukraine” and “God bless the United States of America.”

They sang the Ukrainian national anthem while displaying the blue-and-yellow flag of the Eastern European nation surrounded by Russian forces. Many also bore U.S. flags as a Balboa Park tram picked up visitors for a trip to distant parking lots.

Orysya Barva leads supportive chants at the Balboa Park rally. Photo by Chris Stone

The “Stand with Ukraine” rally was a sober contrast to a festive Balboa Park — packed to the gills on a gorgeous sunny day with temps in the mid-60s and a cool breeze. It was 6,300 miles away from Kyiv, the capital where some of the participants hailed from.

Holding a microphone, Andriy Fedunyak said: “As the world unites against the fury of a madman, I plead to my motherland America for help.”

He stressed that his group was not asking for the sacrifice of American lives on Ukrainian soil.

“We are asking for your help in arming ourselves against this threat,” he said. “Give us the tools and training so we can have a fighting chance — because if Ukraine falls, it will be too late.”

Fedunyak said Russia would then be at “NATO’s doorstep, and American daughters and sons will once again spill blood on European land.”

A male passer-by, barely heard by rally-goers, sounded a lone sour note as he shouted: “Let’s start another war. Makes sense for our economy.”

Only two months after gaining his U.S. citizenship, Pastor Yurii Sas of Carmel Valley delivered a benediction in his native tongue. His  Ukrainian Catholic Church congregation is building a church in Santee.

The San Diego rally — among a number over the weekend, including one in Washington — was organized under the leadership of the Ukrainian Freedom Foundation in coordination with Los Angeles and San Francisco Ukrainian activists, said a news release.

“After eight years of frozen conflict, 29 cease-fires, 15,000 lives lost, millions of refugees and orphans, Russia is amassing over 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and is ready to attack again,” said the release.

“San Diego Ukrainian Americans are asking their fellow Americans for unwavering support for the Ukrainian people to prevent a potential world war. Free and sovereign Ukraine is also in American interests.”

Oleksandr Dubovenko of La Mesa, a former Kyiv resident who moved to America in 2000, played guitar as children sang, including a modern Ukrainian song by Tina Carol.

He said he spoke Russian originally but has used only Ukrainian since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“Putin — nobody knows what is in his head or what is his decision,” Dubovenko told Times of San Diego. “I simply don’t know, but I believe that he can do anything.”

He said his Ukrainian relatives have means of escaping.

“But they’re not going to escape,” he said. “They’re going to fight.  “