"People won't give up so easily" - Leeds Ukrainian community will fight for people back home following invasion by Russia

The Ukrainian community in Leeds is standing together and stronger than ever after Russia's invasion of the eastern region.

By Emma Ryan
Friday, 25th February 2022, 4:45 am

Ukrainians living across Leeds came together last night (Thursday) to show solidarity for family, friends and fellow countrymen back home who are reporting explosions near their homes and expectations for their regions to be occupied within hours.

Members of the Leeds Ukrainian Community Centre say that while they "feel helpless" they will do all they can from Leeds to help and get involved.

Viacheslav Semeniuk has lived in Seacroft for the last seven years with his wife and young daughter after relocating to the UK to work for SKY. He is planning to go to London to stand at the Russian Embassy this weekend.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

"Just leave us alone". Olga Callaghan has pleaded that Ukrainians just want to live in peace and freedom following Russia's invasion of the eastern regions.

Meanwhile, there are plans to collect money from the community centre, at Chapeltown, to donate to people who will be displaced from their communities as the war rages on.

Mr Semeniuk added that his mother was shaking for hours after an attack on a military base near her home and a friend's parents were expecting their community to be occupied within hours.

He told The Yorkshire Evening Post: "Nobody expected it to come to this. My friend's parents live next to the Russian border. He said most likely the territory where they live will be occupied by the end of the day.

"We will do whatever we can. I am planning on going to London to stand next to the Russian Embassy for the whole weekend. I think there will be a lot of people with it being the weekend and my company has offered me a few days off for things I need to do.

Viacheslav Semeniuk has lived in Seacroft for the last seven years. He is planning to go to London to stand at the Russian Embassy this weekend.

"My family are so far so good. There is a military base not very far from their house and there was an explosion there. My mum woke up because of the explosion and was shaking for a few hours because she was so scared. It is pretty frustrating, I feel helpless, there is nothing much I can do - I just sent some money to my mum."

Read More

Read More
Leeds fuel prices to rocket as Russia invades Ukraine - what you could be paying...

He added: "The army is more experienced now than eight years ago. They have supplies back in the UK and US and other places like Canada. It is easier to stand and fight for them than it was before, they would not have been able to but now they can.

"People will not go to fight in the army but they are getting local communities together to patrol the streets and buying walkie talkies to say what is happening. They are bringing all the weapons they have like hunting guns and other things that are possible. People won't give up so easily."

A united effort will convene from the Ukrainian Community Centre in Chapeltown to raise money for displaced communities in the Ukraine.

Back in Leeds the effort to help was gathering people who will be experiencing "unimaginable terror".

Olga Callaghan, 71, said: "We will get together to show solidarity. There is not much we can do apart from show the world we are still here and will fight in our way. The only thing we can do is collect money. How many displaced people are there going to be? There are going to be millions of people and children. It is unimaginable the terror."

Mrs Callaghan was raised in Leeds by her Ukrainian parents who fled to the UK via Germany in the 1940s where they were forced labour. She says she didn't think that 30 years after becoming a free nation that this would be happening.

She said: "We have been a free country for 30 years and all we want is to live in peace and make our own decisions. We did not start this or invade anybody, we just wanted to be free and though we were but obviously not.

"Just leave us alone."

She has heard from other members of the Ukrainian community, who are "living through it", that one mother is stuck and another man posted on Facebook image of shelled out vehicles in his town.

Mrs Callaghan who lives in Bramley said the world has watched this happen.

"I am shocked but not surprised. The whole world has watched through the build up on the borders for months and months. We have seen this, what did we think was going to happen really? This has gone on for so long we have almost allowed it to happen.

"It is unbelievable, I can't believe it. I can't believe starting a war in Europe - not just my country, the country where my parents were born. Now we feel we are next. Do we think it is going to stop there? If I was one of the Baltic nations I would be frightened."

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson promised a "massive" package of economic measures in tandem with the US and European Union after the Russian president finally launched the invasion which had been feared for weeks.

In a sombre address to the nation yesterday (Thursday), the Prime Minister said the world cannot stand by and allow the freedom of Ukraine to be "snuffed out", as Moscow hit its neighbour with a wide-ranging attack, targeting cities and bases with air strikes or shelling.

"This act of wanton and reckless aggression is an attack not just on Ukraine, it's an attack on democracy and freedom in eastern Europe and around the world," Mr Johnson said from Downing Street.

Leeds politicians have reacted with fury after Russia moved in.

Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton labelled the invasion a "blatant violation of international law".

He said: "Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is completely unprovoked and a blatant violation of international law.

"The world’s democracies must come together to deliver the strongest possible response to support the Ukrainian people. We must not tolerate this disgraceful act of aggression."

Alex Sobel MP for Leeds North West said: "We are already seeing the horrifying consequences of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, with the news that 40 lives have been taken by Russian Military aggression.

"The hardest possible sanctions must now be taken against all those linked to Vladimir Putin, including those with Russian money and assets in the UK.

"As the humanitarian consequences of Putin’s actions intensify, the government must also promise sanctuary to those who are displaced and provide humanitarian aid.

"As a city, I know that we will stand by the Ukrainian people and do all we can to amplify their voices. Now is the time for strength and solidarity. We stand with Ukraine."

Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United. With a digital subscription, you'll see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.