February that changed Europe forever: commemorating the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

 Pascal Müller
February that changed Europe forever: commemorating the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

One year ago, at dawn on February 24, we all woke up in a different world. The biggest war in Europe since World War II had started.

When first bombs fell on Kyiv, it was hard to believe that this was our new reality. But what happened after shocked us even more.

The courage and bravery of the Ukrainian people, who have managed to hold on for 365 days and fight back against the Russian invaders, impresses and inspires us, as they are so fiercely fighting for freedom, democracy and our European values.

On the first anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, European Committee of the Regions' members gathered in Gdańsk, Poland, at the invitation of its mayor Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, also chair of the Committee's working group on Ukraine, to express their solidarity with Ukraine.

A delegation of PES Group members led by PES Group President Christophe Rouillon, Mayor of Coulaines, France, participated in the visit and in preparing a support package for Ukraine's cities and regions.

The visit started at Mariupol square where members lit candles and honored the victims of the war.

One year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started. One year of too many lost lives, one year of heroes, one year of courage and resistance.

From the Square of the Defenders of Mariupol in Gdansk, we remember all victims and reiterate our support to Ukraine and its people.
🇺🇦🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/mY6Wpd5IVZ

— Vasco Alves Cordeiro (@CoR_President) February 24, 2023

#Ukraine la journée de travail du ⁦@EU_CoR⁩ débute par un hommage sur le square Marioupol en présence de ⁦@Dulkiewicz_A⁩ maire de Gdansk, en présence de ⁦@CoR_Presidentpic.twitter.com/7GSkhGUfQx

— Patrick MOLINOZ (@MolinozPatrick) February 24, 2023

Members went on to lay flowers on the grave of Pawel Adamowicz, former mayor of Gdańsk, assassinated in 2019, to show respect to all local leaders who fight for European values.  

PES members underlined their unconditional support to the Ukrainian people and the need to support the country’s reconstruction, building in particular on partnerships between European Union cities and regions and their Ukrainian counterparts.

“A year after the aggression of sovereign 🇺🇦, the meeting of the presidency of the @EU_CoR in Gdansk 🇵🇱 sends a strong signal.

We reject the resurgence of Stalin-like sovietism founded on colonial and hostile spirit towards 🇪🇺 values.”

💬 @ch_rouillon #UkraineAlliance pic.twitter.com/IrNatP0gS1

— PES Group Committee of the Regions (@PES_CoR) February 24, 2023

“As mayors and presidents of regions of the 🇪🇺, we reaffirm our support to the local elected representatives at the forefront of resistance and to the preparation of the reconstruction of disfigured 🇺🇦 towns and villages.”

💬 @ch_rouillon #StandWithUkraine #UkraineAlliance pic.twitter.com/ohNc2I3mgV

— PES Group Committee of the Regions (@PES_CoR) February 24, 2023

“Il faut faciliter concrètement les jumelages qui joueront un rôle clef dans la reconstruction de 🇺🇦, l’acheminement de matériels civils et la mise en relation directe de donateurs et bénéficiaires (hôpitaux, services de secours, écoles…).”

💬 @MolinozPatrick #UkraineAlliance pic.twitter.com/DSRyQEtyo2

— PES Group Committee of the Regions (@PES_CoR) February 24, 2023

Members then were confronted with the reality of refugees' lives when visiting a UNICEF center to see how Ukrainian kids who had to flee the war with their families integrate into Polish society and the Municipal Floor Warehouse, that provides damaged Ukrainian cities and villages with equipments such as tents and radiators.

You are not alone.

From Gdańsk, I express on behalf of @EU_CoR my message of solidarity to all Ukrainians who are fighting for European values.

No matter what it takes or how long, we #StandWithUkraine.

“There is always someone who resists and says no”. #SlavaUkraini 🇺🇦🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/3eGHgdOAzv

— Vasco Alves Cordeiro (@CoR_President) February 24, 2023

The day finished with an emotional evening rally, attended by hundreds of Ukrainians and citizens of Gdansk, who gathered to commemorate together the tragedy of this war and share hope for Ukraine's victory.

© Photo credits: unsplash / Pascal Müller