French demonstrators explain why they support Ukraine

A sign ‘children’ in front of the Mariupol theatre was clearly visible from the sky. It was meant to save civilians hiding inside the building from Russian bombs. It didn’t – the theatre was hit by a Russian airstrike. 

In the French city of Lyon, more than 3,000 kilometres (1,860 miles) away from Mariupol, demonstrators displayed the same sign to remind people that the battle for Mariupol was not over. Organisers of the event in May say it concerns everybody, in every corner of Europe.

With the besieged Ukrainian fighters from the Azovstal steel plant taken to a penal colony by Russia, there is still no happy ending for Mariupol. Humanitarian and human rights organisations, politicians and activists from across the world are appealing to Russia to alleviate Mariupol’s pain and help the civilians remaining in the southern port city. 

Euronews asked the French and Ukrainian people, who went out to protest for this cause, why they think their demonstration mattered.

Hubert Julien-Laferrière, Member of the National Assembly for Rhône, 56,

Julien-Laferrière regularly visits the demonstrations in support of Ukraine. He thinks it is important to show respect to the victims of Russia’s invasion and solidarity with people who are living through “the hell of war”, alongside the Ukrainians seeking refuge in France.

Sergine, 65,a retired person from Lyon

Sergine never expected something ‘so horrific’ to happen in the world in 2022.

“It’s important to support a nation that suffers,” she said. “We are all hoping that this going to shift as soon as possible. We are trying to do what we can, it’s not always obvious. Everybody around me realises that Mariupol is not as far away as it may seem. It’s Europe, Ukraine is near geographically, and also very close to our hearts.”

Natalia Goetz, 39, an HR specialist from Lyon

Goetz is devastated by the war in her home country. “The situation in Mariupol is critical, we can’t just keep business as usual when things like this are going on,” she said. 

“We should sign petitions, we should come out to the streets to draw the attention of people in power to this matter.”

Serhii Onyshchenko, 24, a developer, and an exchange student in France from the Kharkiv Ukraine

Onyshchenkocollects aid and drones to send back to Ukraine. 

“I don’t care where I am in which country I am, I have friends from Mariupol, I get my news from them directly,” he says. “This really hurts.

“I can support them at least a little bit by fighting back against the Russian propaganda that does exist in the local news. When you talk as a Ukrainian person to French people, they ask and care about how you are doing as a Ukrainian. But it’s not an important part of the social-political discussion. That’s why I contribute to this kind of event”.

Diana Dimitrova, 27, a veterinarian from Kyiv and co-organizer of the event

Dimitrova came to Lyon because of the war. She said: “I think it’s my civiс duty to organize events like this.

“I first suffered a lot because I had to leave my country. I am usually the one that helps, and today I became a victim of something, everybody helps me. Mariupol story is hurtful. I think we should talk about this as much as possible.”

She added: “This [war] concerns everybody because this is about human lives. Ukraine is Europe. How is it possible that in the 21st-century people are killed in masses and everybody is like: “What can we do”

“How, how is this possible? My heart and my soul hurts,” Dimitrova continued. 

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