Rainy Rally in Santa Barbara Marks One Year Since Russia Invaded Ukraine

Ukrainians, Elected Officials Among Those to Speak in Solidarity at Saturday’s Gathering at Courthouse

A crowd gathered at the Santa Barbara Courthouse over the weekend to show continued support of Ukraine | Credit: Don Brubaker

Overcast skies set the mood on Saturday outside of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, where a crowd gathered to rally in support of Ukraine following the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country.

Credit: Don Brubaker

More than 50 people huddled together in the cold rain, highlighted against the gray sky by bright yellow and blue hues representing the Ukrainian flag. The rally was organized by local Ukrainians and World Dance for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $225,000 in aid for Ukrainians impacted by the war. A table was set up beneath the courthouse’s exterior archway for accepting donations, with gifts such as scarves, hats, and pins available in return. 

Janet Reineck, the founder of World Dance, called the downpour “perfect weather” for the event. “I’m glad we’re all standing out here shivering. It gives us a little tiny feeling of what it’s like [in Ukraine]; except they don’t have electricity, or gas, or a way to keep warm,” she said. 

Friday, February 24, marked 365 days since Russia invaded Ukraine, or “365 Days of Defending Freedom,” the rally’s title referencing that painful milestone for Ukrainians.

In the past year, millions of Ukrainians have lost their homes, and tens of thousands of Ukrainians have lost their lives. During Saturday’s rally, community members and regional and state representatives spoke to the horrors of the war, the resilience and bravery of Ukraine and its people, and the shared desire and fight for peace.  

In attendance were many Ukrainians who reside in Santa Barbara, including Tatyana Taruta. Taruta grew up in Mariupol, a city destroyed by Russian warfare. 

“We are gathering today to stand with Ukraine, with freedom, with democracy,” Taruta said. “It was a year that took a lot from us. For me, personally, Russia took away my hometown of Mariupol… They took away some of my family members and friends — they were buried alive under concrete rubble, and now they’re buried in mass graves with concrete debris.” 

As she stood atop the courthouse steps, Taruta described the unthinkable tragedies experienced by Ukrainians in the ongoing war and at the hands of Russian soldiers. She thanked the Santa Barbara community for their support, and expressed the need for continued humanitarian and military aid from the United States as the war continues.

Tatyana Taruta | Credit: Don Brubaker

“This war should stop soon, and it should stop with the victory of Ukraine,” Taruta continued. “For Ukraine, it’s an existential war. If Russia stops fighting, the war is over. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine is over.”

Representatives who spoke at the rally included Santa Barbara Supervisor Das Williams, who acted as the rally’s emcee, as well as Congressmember Adam Schiff, State Senator Monique Limón, Erica Reyes representing Congressmember Salud Carbajal, Santa Barbara District Attorney John Savrnoch, and Assemblymember Gregg Hart. 

Reyes recounted Carbajal’s past visits to Ukraine, once to meet with Ukrainian officials before the invasion and again in December 2022 to hear firsthand about the aid the United States has provided. “The message he heard is the message I share with you all today: Ukraine is still standing,” Reyes said.

“On this one-year anniversary, it’s important to realize that this fight is not over…. The months ahead will be difficult, but the strength and courage of the Ukrainian people, and the backing of our coalition, means Ukraine has a strong chance of maintaining its sovereignty and freedom. And let us not forget that Ukraine is not only fighting for its freedom; it’s fighting for free democracies like ours. As Ukraine liberates itself, we stand ready to support a negotiated and just peace.” 

Supervisor Williams and Congressmember Schiff shared the sentiment that “Ukraine’s fight is our fight.” Schiff — who’s running for Senator Dianne Feinstein’s soon-to-be-vacant seat and was in town for a meet-and-greet later that afternoon — said that the United States’ support needs to remain “bipartisan” and “strong.”

“I am very proud of what the United States has done, what U.S. citizens have done to come to the aid and assistance of the people of Ukraine…but we need to do so much more,” Schiff said. “People keep asking, ‘How do we bring this war to an end?’ And sadly, the only way to bring this war to a swift conclusion is by making sure Ukraine has every resource it needs to defend itself … and we will be by your side.” 

Although a somber air hung over the crowd in the beginning, the rally ended with dancing. Attendees — sporting flower crowns and draped with American and Ukrainian flags — joined hands in a large circle and moved in unison to the tune of a Ukrainian song. Once the song concluded, dancers from World Dance for Humanity led routines that brought cheer to an otherwise melancholy and cloudy afternoon.  


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