BRAMA, Dec 16, 2004, 4:00 pm ET|
Hartford (CT) Rally Draws Hundreds in support of Orange Revolution in Ukraine
By Alex Kuzma
(Hartford, CT) On Saturday, December 11, a crowd of about two hundred demonstrators gathered on the steps of the Connecticut State Capitol and called for fair and free elections in Ukraine. Despite a thick fog and cold mist, the enthusiastic throng waved Ukrainian flags and bright orange scarves and banners to show their support of the pro-Western presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko. The rally attracted a diverse crowd of participants, mostly from the Greater Hartford area, but also including supporters from as far away as New Haven, New Britain, Oxford, Colchester, Danbury and Bridgeport.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Lawrence DeNardis, former five-time Congressman from the 5th District, as well as President Emeritus and tenured professor at the University of New Haven. Dr. DeNardis served as an election monitor in Kherson and spoke passionately about the fraudulent tactics he witnessed in the days leading up to the November 21st vote. He said, “Any notion of freedom of speech or assembly was nonexistent in what was supposed to be a free country.”
Other speakers included State Senator John Fonfara of Hartford, State Senator Jonathan Harris of West Hartford, and Dr. Elona Vaisnys of Yale University, a member of the Lithuanian National Executive Committee. Senator Harris told the crowd how inspired he was to see young people leading the non-violent reform movement in Ukraine, and he assured the crowd that it would be much more difficult now for the Kuchma-Yanukovych-Putin gang to derail the December 26th election.
Quoting the chant from the 1968 Democratic Convention, Senator Harris told the crowd: “The whole world is watching!” He and Senator Fonfara pledged that the State Capitol will be flying the Ukrainian flag on December 26th to show Connecticut’s solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they go to the polls.
The rally was organized under the auspices of the Council of Ukrainian-American Organizations of Greater Hartford. It attracted extensive press coverage from the Hartford Courant, with a front-page photograph and article in the Sunday local section, and reports on each of the state’s ABC, CBS and NBC news stations (Channels 8, 3 and 30, respectively).
Alex Kuzma, an Ukrainian-American activist and master of ceremonies for the rally, was quoted as saying, “Today is a day when all Americans and people of all nationalities can rejoice in the renaissance of freedom in Ukraine. We are here to tell our friends in Kyiv’s Independence Square that we stand with them, and we want them to know how very proud we are of their passionate commitment to the deepest human values that unite us all.”
The demonstrators waved Ukrainian flags, placards and banners that read: “Yes, Yushchenko!”; “Stay strong, Ukraine!” and “Hey, Putin! Keep your KGB nose out of Ukraine”, a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin who has been sharply criticized for his interference in the Ukrainian elections. Many schoolchildren from the Saturday Ukrainian studies school at St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Hartford joined their parents and grandparents at the rally soon after classes ended.
The rally ended with the singing of the Ukrainian national anthem. Among the key organizers were Irene Oleksiak, Natalie Korsheniuk Pollock, Myron Kolinsky, Alex Kuzma, Ihor Rudko, and Ivan Kebalo, with logistical support provided by Rostyk and Ulana Slabickyj, Moki Kokoris, and Ihor Stasiuk. For more information, please contact Irene Oleksiak at (860) 647-9946 or firstname.lastname@example.org/.