When Irina Shatlov watched the Russian invasion play out on her television screen at her home in Aurora Wednesday night, all she could do was scream and cry, she said. She frantically called her parents, who live in Kyiv, and urged them to evacuate their home.
But the main highways out of the city were flooded with cars, her parents told her. They decided to shelter in place and wait out the conflict, Shatlov said.
“My parents say we have to stay calm, just pray,” she said. “We cannot do nothing right now for Ukraine, for our families.”
By Thursday, fear had turned into frustration as Shatlov and dozens of other Ukrainian community members gathered on the steps of the state Capitol building in solidarity with their home country. They sang Ukraine’s national anthem together and recounted their text and phone conversations with loved ones now living in a war zone.
Kateryna Popova, a Ukrainian-American living in Denver, passed out blue and yellow flags to strangers. Her family, who lives in Kyiv and several smaller cities in the western part of the country, had begun to evacuate to Poland, she said.
“I want the whole world to be aware of the situation and stand up for human rights,” Popova said. “For the safety of Ukraine and the whole of Europe and the United States.”
Demonstrators applauded President Joe Biden’s new economic sanctions targeting Russian financial systems, but said they want to see more humanitarian aid delivered to Ukrainian citizens and for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be held accountable.
This story will be updated.