The commemoration in the Netherlands of one year of war in Ukraine showed that the spirit of courage and connection is undiminished.

24 February started early for the four-strong delegation representing United Way. They travelled to Utrecht, where a large-scale event commemorated the anniversary of the Russian invasion. Consisting of UW-NL’s Machiel Salomons and Myles Bavin and Ukrainians Olena Tiutiunnyk and Polina Borysenko ­– who both have key roles in the Ukrainian Women Refugees Association (UWRA) – the group attended a programme of speeches and music. Utrecht’s mayor Sharon Dijksma and government ministers Liesje Schreinemacher and Eric van der Burg were there, as well as the ambassador of Ukraine, Maksym Kononenko. At Utrecht exhibition centre, ‘living rooms’ symbolizing various Ukrainian towns and regions served as focal points for emotional meetings of people uprooted from their homes.

Along with our delegation, H.E. Ambassador Kononenko was also present at a get-together at Amsterdam’s Lutheran Church later that day. Femke Halsema, the mayor of Amsterdam, was also among the many special guests enjoying a concert organized at the church by the University of Amsterdam.

UWRA project manager Olena Tiutiunnyk looks back fondly on the 24th: “Many Dutch people came to express their support. Some of them carried posters and cried with us.” She was deeply moved by the talented Ukrainian musicians who took the stage. “An eleven-year-old girl sang our national anthem so well that it’s still in my soul. I felt so proud of our people. It was a day of tears and gratitude, in the knowledge that we have to fight on.”

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