Waving flags, hundreds rally for Ukraine in Binghamton

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Anya and Taras Kostyk lived in Kiev before they moved to Binghamton with their daughter, Adriana. They have family in Ukraine now, unable to escape the Russian invasion. (Jillian Forstadt/WSKG)

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG)—Gusty winds carried traditional Ukrainian music and prayers through the streets on Sunday as hundreds gathered to show their support for Ukraine outside Binghamton City Hall.

Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham said the rally may have been the largest one held outside City Hall in the last decade. It came as Ukraine has continued to face a Russian invasion.

Anya Kostyk attended the rally alongside her husband and young daughter. She moved to the United States from Ukraine in 2019.

Her parents live in a town an hour outside of Kiev, where they have remained since Russia’s attacks began. Kostyk said without a car, it is difficult for them to leave, and the closest train station that would take them west has been seized by Russian forces.

Kostyk said she checks in with her family in Ukraine every day. Her mother spent her birthday in a bomb shelter.

Kostyk had hoped they would flee to Poland, but said it is no longer safe enough for her parents to travel.

“I feel torn up emotionally, into pieces,” she said through her husband, Taras Kostyk, on Sunday. “We felt this pain in 2014 when the war first started in the east, with the annexation of Crimea, but this pain is, you can’t even describe it into words right now, what we’re feeling.”

She wants the United States and NATO member states to increase their aid for those still in Ukraine. The couple and their young daughter, Adriana, held up a sign urging countries that are part of NATO to close their skies to Russian planes.

The United States ban on Russian aircrafts went into effect last week.

Officials look to resettle Ukrainian refugees, again

Many of the rally’s speakers declared their support for stronger statewide measures against Russia, including ending state contracts with Russian companies.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order last week directing all state agencies to review and divest public funds from Russia.

Elected officials in Broome County added they are ready to welcome Ukrainian refugees. According to the United Nations, approximately 1.3 million people have fled Ukraine so far.

“We are ready, we are willing and we are able to assist anyone who is in need of a home, whether it be temporary or permanent as a result of the violence in Ukraine,” Broome County Executive Jason Garnar said.

The Binghamton area already hosts a large Ukrainian community, which has remained in the Southern Tier over several generations. Orysia Czebiniak-Tunick’s mother was among the many Ukrainians who came to Broome County by way of displaced persons camps in Germany after World War II.

Czebiniak-Tunick, who grew up in the Town of Union, said she was raised to be proud of her Ukrainian heritage. She has remained involved in the Ukrainian community through the Sacred Heart Ukrainian Catholic Church, and hopes to enroll her son in Ukrainian language school.

Czebiniak-Tunick said she was amazed by the outpouring of support for Ukrainians and Ukrainian-Americans alike.

“Seeing how many people came out to support the community, it’s beyond words for me,” Czebiniak-Tunick said.