Arizona's Ukrainian community marks solemn war anniversary

By Phil Latzman
Published: Thursday, February 23, 2023 - 3:18pm
Updated: Friday, February 24, 2023 - 9:06am

Friday marks one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which triggered the largest conflict in Europe since World War II. And it’s had worldwide impacts, all the way to Arizona.

The state’s growing Ukrainian-American community is marking the solemn occasion with events designed to raise awareness of the dire situation that continues in their home country.

“We were a quiet, kind of sleepy Ukrainian community here in Phoenix for a long time,” said Victor Szwez, president of St Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Phoenix. 

He says the unfortunate circumstances have helped the once disparate community to come together.

“This war has brought out a lot of Ukrainians that we didn’t know about, that we’ve never met. We’ve started getting refugees here in Arizona.”

According to Arizona's Department of Economic Security, 462 individuals displaced from Ukraine have settled here as part of the state's Refugee Resettlement Program.

Ukrainians in Arizona protest the war
Chad Snow/KJZZ
Ukrainian flags have been displayed at homes and events throughout the Phoenix area in the year since Russia's invasion, including at this campaign event for U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego in Phoenix on Jan. 28, 2023.

In the past year, Szwez’s church has raised money for humanitarian aid and organized the collection of critical medical supplies to be sent back to Ukraine and rallied the community to ensure the war happening over 6-thousand miles away remains relevant here in Arizona.

“It’s a matter of reminding them that over 200,000 children have been kidnapped and taken back to Russia to be Russified; that innocent people are being bombed every day; that atrocities are happening every day; that war crimes are being committed, crimes against humanity are being committed," said Szwez.

Swzez called it a proud moment when President Joe Biden visited Kiev this week to show continuing support for Ukraine.

"Ukraine wouldn't be standing without the support of the U.S., NATO and the rest of the world," Szwez said.

On Saturday, members of Arizona’s Ukrainian and Iranian community will rally together in Old Town Scottsdale. Then on Sunday, a march is planned from Phoenix’s Ukrainian Cultural Center downtown to Colter Park.