LYNNWOOD, Wash., April 2, 2022 – On Thursday, March 31, the City of Lynnwood held a “Peace for Ukraine Vigil” at City Hall. The vigil was organized by Lynnwood Councilwomen Shannon Sessions and Julieta Altamirano-Crosby and was a collaboration between the Council members, the Lynnwood City Foodbank, and Image Church.
Community members in attendance were provided candles for the vigil, snacks by Lynnwood City Foodbank, and the opportunity to donate to Image Church’s Ukraine Help Fund.
“Every single penny goes directly to helping the Ukrainian people,” said Image Church Pastor John Petrus. “We want to give money directly to the people that are there on the ground.”
According to Petrus, the money collected by Image Church will not be processed through a third-party charity but sent to specific ministries in Ukraine with whom he has remained in contact.
Remarks from Mayor Frizzell and Director Dinh-Kuno at the Ukraine Vigil
The ceremony began with the singing of the American National Anthem, followed by the National Anthem of Ukraine. The Councilwomen and Mayor Christine Frizzell briefly addressed the crowd, voicing their support for the Ukrainians displaced due to the current conflict.
As part of her remarks, Mayor Frizzell read aloud the City’s proclamation titled “In Solidarity With the People of Ukraine,” which can be found on Lynnwood’s Facebook page.
When sharing with the Lynnwood Times what the vigil meant for the Lynnwood Community, she said, “It means we partner with them. We partner with people who are having unjust things done to them. We partner with people that are going through horrific situations, especially situations that they didn’t bring upon themselves.”
“And my heart goes out to the people here who are worried about their friends and family there,” she continued. “My heart goes out to the people whose lives I can’t imagine what they’re like in the Ukraine.”
Executive Director of Refugee and Immigrant Services Northwest Van Dinh-Kuno, who was a refugee herself, spoke about the plight of refugees who’ve fled or are fleeing war-torn countries and the importance of welcoming them into the community.
“As a refugee myself […] the community here opened the door for me and my family,” Director Dinh-Kuno said. “You [didn’t] know me; you just opened your heart and your arms and welcomed me and my family.”
Director Dinh-Kuno noted the services and organizers who stand ready to receive and assist Ukrainians arriving in the City and Snohomish County.
After announcing that over 50 Ukrainian refugees had already arrived in the County within the last two weeks, she said, “So please open your arms and your hearts to support our Ukrainian people.”
Stories from Ukraine
Before lighting the candles, Image Church Pastor John Petrus and his wife, Pastor Vita Petrus, briefly shared their stories of arriving in the states from Ukraine. John Petrus recalled how welcomed he felt in America and said that such welcoming exemplifies the Lynnwood community.
“We’re so genuinely touched, moved, and we’re so blessed to see all of you joining us tonight,” he said.
Speaking about the central purpose of the vigil, John said, “remember those that lost their lives, and those that are destitute, that are hurting, displaced, fleeing their homes and running for their lives.”
Image Church members Margarita Filimonchuk and Victoria Cattarin, who are both from Ukraine, shared stories about the struggles of their friends and family back home.
“I just wanted to express my thanks for standing together as a community,” said Margarita Filimonchuk, whose family came to America as refugees when she was just three years old.
“Right now, we still have a lot of family living in Ukraine,” she said. “Some of them were able to leave. Some continue to stay. Some have made it their mission to help communities that are more in hot spots where there is more shelling.”
Of her family that’s decided to remain in Ukraine, Filimonchuk later explained to the Lynnwood Times how her cousins have been delivering humanitarian aid to people in Ukraine who don’t have any means of preparing food and transporting people to safety on a daily basis.
When asked what she believes inspires her family to stay and help, she said, “It truly is a love for people, and I truly believe that it is faith-inspired, you know? We are Christians and my family, [they’re] believers, and they believe that the greatest commandment really is just to love each other.”
Victoria Cattarin, who was born in Crimea, Ukraine, recounted how her family came to the states as immigrants seeking asylum due to religious persecution and shared a story about her cousin in Ukraine whose village was surrounded by Russian forces.
With water, electricity, and supplies being cut off from the village, Cattarin explained how her cousin survived amidst the harsh and dangerous conditions and was ultimately able to escape with the assistance of Ukrainian Malitia.
To stay in contact with Cattarin, her cousin and her cousin’s neighbors have been taking shifts charging their phones in idling cars and sending daily updates to loved ones overseas.
Fortunately, Cattarin’s cousin flew into Washington state from Germany on April 1st.
“So I just wanted to say thank you for coming out and supporting, and obviously this story has a happy ending [but] there’s still so many people there,” she said.
Candles, prayers, and human connection
Candles were distributed and lit among the crowd, and Pastor John Petrus offered a prayer for peace, solace, and safety.
Afterward, John shared with the Lynnwood Times how personal stories, like the ones shared at the event, transcend differences and promote human connection.
“Despite the background, whether it’s cultural or ethnical, the fact that we have the heart to hear someone else’s story or experience—it goes beyond politics,” he said.
“As a member of the Ukrainian community, I don’t wish anything bad for Russia. People are people in Russia. And most of them, I hope, they don’t want a war, so it’s about connecting and helping people.”
To donate to Image Church’s Ukrainian Help Fund, click here and select “Ukrainian Help Fund” under “Giving Type.”