Covington hoists Ukrainian flag in show of solidarity
as the city commissioner describes phone calls from the war zone
COVINGTON, Ky. — Ukraine’s blue and yellow flag began flying in an official capacity Wednesday on Main Street, a symbolic gesture of the city’s solidarity with the beleaguered country since Russian troops began invading the month latest.
It is the first of a dozen Ukrainian flags that will officially fly in a one-block area of MainStrasse Village.
“It’s a symbol of how what’s happening over 5,000 miles away in a fight for freedom and democracy resonates personally here in Covington,” said Covington Mayor Joe Meyer. before introducing City Commissioner Shannon Smith, whose mother-in-law is from Ukraine.
Residents, media, officials and city staff listened as Smith shared details of his mother-in-law’s conversations with family and friends in the war zone, and his feelings of fear, strength and hope.
“I spoke with her last night. She spoke with passion, but through tears,” Smith said. “She fears for the safety of her family and friends. She shared with me the phone calls she received from her family. The first phone call she received, she could hear artillery fire.
Smith described another friend of her mother-in-law who currently lives in a high-rise to care for her mother. The Russian army has cut off the building’s electricity and the daughter leaves to look for resources, not knowing if she will be able to return and, if not, who will take care of her mother. She fears the skyscraper is being targeted by Russian forces.
Smith said her mother-in-law still had an apartment in Kyiv and went there just before the invasion. Smith said raising the Ukrainian flag today in Covington was among the events that gave her mother-in-law “strength and hope”.
“She shared with me that she was very excited and proud that we were doing this here in Covington,” Smith said. “She shared that Ukraine is its own independent and passionate people with its own traditions, its own culture. And she said they were ready to fight for it.
Smith told the crowd that there are many ways to show support for Ukrainians.
“We’re going to raise these flags today, but I want you to know that not only can we raise flags, but we can raise hopes and raise funds,” Smith said.
She said her mother-in-law told her that there were organizations on the ground in Ukraine that would distribute materials to civilians defending their country, and that contributions could be made to the Ukrainian military.
“When she shared this with me, I assured her that today I would share it with all of you,” Smith said. “I just want to thank you again and let you know that it means the world to her – it means the world to me – and I truly believe that by raising this flag we are reaching Ukraine and raising hope.”
Her remarks concluded, Commissioner Smith climbed into the bucket of a Public Works “crawler” to hang the first Ukrainian flag. Then she turned to the crowd with a triumphant “thumbs up.”
Matt Lehman, a graduate of Covington Catholic High School, also spoke and lived and worked in Ukraine for several years and still has friends in the country.
“At this point, I just want to make sure they’re safe and they stay alive,” said Lehman, who now lives in Newport.
“It’s really a matter of survival at this stage. I try to work with some organizations that help. I was in medical research and was on the board of an organization called The Children of Chernobyl Relief Funds, we were helping children affected by the Chernobyl disaster, so that group is reorganized and tries to help, especially pediatric patients from Ukraine. It’s about knowing what we can do, helping people get the resources they need.
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