Ukrainians Take to the Streets in Manhattan
Good morning. Today we’ll look at how Ukrainians in New York responded to Russia’s invasion. And on Staten Island, the St. Patrick’s Day parade will once again exclude L.G.B.T. groups.
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
With a mix of outrage and sadness, hundreds of Ukrainian New Yorkers responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine by gathering in Midtown Manhattan to denounce the attack and condemn President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
“Stop Putin now” and “Hands off Ukraine,” a spirited group of demonstrators chanted as they gathered at noon in Times Square.
New York City is home to more than 150,000 Ukrainians, the largest such community in the country, with pockets in the East Village in Manhattan and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. There are scattered populations throughout the five boroughs, as well as in the suburbs.
Hundreds showed up on Thursday and marched along streets clogged with weekday traffic, encouraged by cabdrivers, hot dog vendors and other workers.
“Even though I’m not from Ukraine, I support them,” said Gerald McWilliams, 55, a messenger from the Bronx who applauded the demonstrators as they marched up Seventh Avenue.
“Just because the Russians got a bigger army doesn’t mean they can just come in and take over another country,” he told me.
On the march, to the Russian mission
Leaders of the rally held up an enormous banner in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag as they headed to the Russian mission to the United Nations on the Upper East Side.
There, they joined another spirited group and broke into the Ukrainian national anthem together, as some protesters wept and hugged. Others cloaked themselves in the Ukrainian flag and chanted in English and Ukrainian.
Some, like Christina Bundziak, 21, said they feared for the safety of friends and family still living in Ukraine.
Ms. Bundziak, a student at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, took the day off from class to join the protest. She held a handmade cardboard sign bearing Putin’s name prefaced by an expletive.
“I had to do something to show any support I can,” she said.
Some demonstrators, like Michael Boyko, 30, from Hoboken, N.J., said they had been fearing an invasion for months as they watched news reports of Russian troops amassing around Ukraine’s borders. But they were nevertheless shocked at the speed and intensity of the assault.
“It’s hard to believe how quickly they’ve attacked the western cities and really the entire country,” said Mr. Boyko, whose grandparents immigrated from Ukraine. “Putin never believed in Ukraine’s own sovereignty, and what he’s doing now is just proof of that.”
At a Ukrainian diner in the East Village, pierogi and tears
The staff at Veselka, the Ukrainian diner in the East Village, said a prayer before the restaurant opened, my colleague Alyson Krueger reported.
“My grandfather always believed in a free Ukraine,” said the owner, Jason Birchard, whose grandfather opened the place in 1954 after fleeing the Soviet Union. Mr. Birchard said Veselka was “getting an outpouring of love” in recent days.
Tania Didyk, a waitress, said, “I feel bad that I am here, and my family is still there.”
“It’s been hard to work today,” she said. “Tears coming to my eyes.”
My colleague John Leland spoke to Ukrainian New Yorkers before the invasion. Some said they would willingly return to Ukraine to help with resistance efforts.
John checked in Thursday with Dora Chomiak, an activist in the Ukrainian community.
At demonstrations, “people were worried, angry and hopeful, all at the same time,” she said. “A lot of people were right on the edge of tears.”
Prepare for freezing rain, sleet and wind gusts early in the day, with a high around 40. At night, it’ll be partly cloudy with temps dropping to the low 20s.
Suspended Friday because of the wintry weather.
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On Staten Island, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is still banning gay, lesbian and transgender groups
As the city begins to return to some semblance of its prepandemic self, the approach of March means the return of St. Patrick’s Day parades big and small.
And organizers of Staten Island’s parade are once again refusing to let gay, lesbian and transgender groups participate, my colleague Liam Stack reported.
New York City’s parade, held every March 17 on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, is the world’s oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parade. After decades of controversy, it ended a ban on gay groups marching under their own banners in 2014.
Smaller parades across the New York region have largely followed suit in allowing L.G.B.T groups to march. But the Staten Island parade, to be held on March 6, has clung to its ban.
“Our parade is for Irish heritage and culture,” Larry Cummings, the president of its parade committee, told The Irish Voice newspaper in 2018. “It is not a political or sexual identification parade.”
The Staten Island parade draws thousands of spectators and is an important event for local families and businesses. But in recent years, elected officials have mostly boycotted it over its treatment of gay marchers.
Understand Russia’s Attack on Ukraine
What is at the root of this invasion? Russia considers Ukraine within its natural sphere of influence, and it has grown unnerved at Ukraine’s closeness with the West and the prospect that the country might join NATO or the European Union. While Ukraine is part of neither, it receives financial and military aid from the United States and Europe.
Are these tensions just starting now? Antagonism between the two nations has been simmering since 2014, when the Russian military crossed into Ukrainian territory, after an uprising in Ukraine replaced their Russia-friendly president with a pro-Western government. Then, Russia annexed Crimea and inspired a separatist movement in the east. A cease-fire was negotiated in 2015, but fighting has continued.
How did this invasion unfold? After amassing a military presence near the Ukrainian border for months, on Feb. 21, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia signed decrees recognizing two pro-Russian breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. On Feb. 23, he declared the start of a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Several attacks on cities around the country have since unfolded.
What has Mr. Putin said about the attacks? Mr. Putin said he was acting after receiving a plea for assistance from the leaders of the Russian-backed separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, citing the false accusation that Ukrainian forces had been carrying out ethnic cleansing there and arguing that the very idea of Ukrainian statehood was a fiction.
How has Ukraine responded? On Feb. 23, Ukraine declared a 30-day state of emergency as cyberattacks knocked out government institutions. Following the beginning of the attacks, Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, declared martial law. The foreign minister called the attacks “a full-scale invasion” and called on the world to “stop Putin.”
How has the rest of the world reacted? The United States, the European Union and others have condemned Russia’s aggression and begun issuing economic sanctions against Russia. Germany announced on Feb. 23 that it would halt certification of a gas pipeline linking it with Russia. China refused to call the attack an “invasion,” but did call for dialogue.
How could this affect the economy? Russia controls vast global resources — natural gas, oil, wheat, palladium and nickel in particular — so the conflict could have far-reaching consequences, prompting spikes in energy and food prices and spooking investors. Global banks are also bracing for the effects of sanctions.
Mayor Eric Adams will not be attending. Mr. Adams has himself come under fire in recent days for appointing three men who voiced opposition to gay marriage to roles in his administration.
A spokesman for Mr. Adams, Fabien Levy, said, “We are still hopeful that the organizers of the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade will see the need for inclusion in our celebrations of cultural heritage and allow members of the LGBTQ+ community to participate.”
While they did not comment, Staten Island parade organizers made their position clear in this year’s application form, which said in boldface capital letters: “THIS PARADE IS NOT TO BE USED FOR AND WILL NOT ALLOW POLITICAL OR SEXUAL IDENTIFICATION AGENDAS TO BE PROMOTED.”
The form also said the parade committee would allow a group to march only if it “does not stand, in any way, in opposition to, or contradict, the Teachings and Tenets of the Catholic Church.”
Carol Bullock, the executive director of the Pride Center of Staten Island, has not been able to get the center into the parade.
Its applications have been rejected for years because parade organizers insisted that it promoted “a homosexual lifestyle” that violated the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and was at odds with a celebration of Irish identity, Ms. Bullock said.
Also rejected, she told Liam, was Fire Flag, which represents L.G.B.T. employees of the New York Fire Department, and the Gay Officers Action League, or G.O.A.L, which represents law enforcement officers.
Ms. Bullock said, “You have F.D.N.Y. and N.Y.P.D. people who are protecting our community, but they can’t march in a parade.”
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When I moved to New York, I searched for traces of my home. I carried my binoculars and the Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America almost everywhere.
When I spotted a bird I didn’t know, I looked to its genus and thought of the birds from my home who shared the same taxonomy. American birds fascinated me: the robin that hunted for earthworms by listening for their tunneling; the blackpoll warbler and its mammoth migration.
On weekends, I took to wandering around the Ramble in Central Park. I watched a juvenile red-tailed hawk hunt near the bird feeders. Not far from Park Avenue, I spotted a barred owl sleeping high up in a tree.
I am settled now, and I leave my binoculars at home. I listen to the bird calls of blue jays and Northern cardinals and think only of them. I become shocked when I forget the names of my home-country birds, like I have betrayed them in some way.
But the reverence I hold for birds remains the same. I still stop in wonder whenever I see a tiny god in the middle of Manhattan.
— Benn Jeffries
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you Monday. — C.K.
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Melissa Guerrero, Olivia Parker and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].