Islanders unite in support of Ukrainian people

Rally at Five Corners provides an opportunity to denounce war.


A sea of blue and yellow enveloped Five Corners in Vineyard Haven on Saturday as dozens of Islanders gathered to show their support for the people of Ukraine. Passing cars honked approval for the crowd, many of whom stood holding the colors of the Ukrainian flag, many holding up signs expressing the urgency to support those affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis unfolding in Eastern Europe. 

Holly Mackenzie and Carla Cooper, both longtime Vineyarders and active officers of the Democratic Council of Martha’s Vineyard (MV Dems) helped coordinate the nonpartisan, unsponsored demonstration. It’s about supporting the community, said Mackenzie: “We live on an island, but we are not an island.” 

This notion of working to broaden views of community to incorporate people and nations worldwide in times of conflict and precarity added an indisputable depth to the atmosphere of Saturday’s gathering. “Energy begets energy,” said Deborah Medders, who carried with her a sign reading “For Democracy.” 

Dan Doyle, New York native turned Vineyard resident, stood with his young son Lorenzo, who held up a sign of his own stating, “You got this, Ukraine.”

Rally co-coordinator Iya Labunka addressed the crowd from a small platform; microphone in one hand, and a framed black and white photograph in the other. The photograph, taken in the mid-1940s, is of her mother standing in the snowy woods of rural Ukraine bearing arms as a resistance fighter in the Ukrainian underground.

Labunka is a film producer and Vineyard resident whose family ties motivated her to organize the local gathering to vehemently express solidarity and show moral support for the people of Ukraine. The daughter of Ukrainian freedom fighters and World War II refugees, Labunka is American-born, but carries with her the burden of her family’s intergenerational opposition to constant conflict in Eastern Europe. “To have my first cousins have to take up guns again in this fight, that Ukranians have been fighting for hundreds of years, is heartbreaking,” Labunka says. “It’s just madness. That’s the only way to describe it.”

Ten days after Russia launched its full-fledged invasion on Ukraine, the world continues to bear witness to the intensifying humanitarian crisis, which seems to have no end in sight. According to the U.N., as of March 5, neighboring and nearby countries have granted temporary protection to more than 1.3 million refugees, an estimated 3 percent of the country’s population. As Russia rapidly amps up its army’s advances by gaining footholds in key Ukrainian cities, violating ceasefire agreements, and strategically hindering transportation out of Ukraine, the global community watches in real time what may soon become one of the largest refugee crises in the past century. 

On Friday, Russia gained control over Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, sparking fear of another Chernobyl, and prompting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to call out the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in a video address for its lack of military support, demanding allied assistance in responding to the attacks with “decisive action.” 

“The first line of the Ukrainian anthem is ‘Ukraine is not dead yet,’” said Labunka. “They just keep going; as occupiers, marauders, and aggressors keep trying to wipe them out over and over again. This is a distinct culture with a distinct history and a distinct language. I speak Ukrainian because of the determination of my parents to keep this culture, this language, and this identity alive.”

As events in Eastern Europe unfold, many Americans are experiencing a pervasive helplessness, looking for ways to show their support for the people of Ukraine in any way they can. One of the most important things Americans can do is to keep pressure on our elected representatives, says Labunka, to fight to help send aid and support to displaced refugees and for the restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty. “They listen. Especially if there is a groundswell [of opinion]. We need to steel ourselves and support people who are fighting for self-determination and for democracy. These are lionhearted people who have continuously, against all odds, chosen democracy. So show your support, and make it known that we abhor aggression and we stand with the Ukrainian people.”

A pamphlet handed out to those at the event urged donations to RAZOM for Ukraine, World Central Kitchen, NOVA Ukraine, and Global Empowerment Mission.


  1. I’m assuming many of those at the gathering today support arming the Ukraine resistance. I don’t think they are big Second Amendment types. Per Capita gun ownership in the Ukraine is 9.9, the US 120. I’m thinking the Ukraine would be in a much better position if the citizens were well armed and I’m doubly sure most of those at Five Corners today are fans of gun control in the U.S. Just saying.

    • The people crossing our borders want to coexist with Americans, earn a paycheck, raise families. The invaders of Ukraine fire on and kill civilians, they appear to prefer destroying. How is the gun control argument in America relevant here?

      • Neil, we are happy to have those people. Get in line and fill out the papers and apply.

    • John– I agree with you !!!! — If more Ukrainians had guns they would have shot down all those cruise missiles before they hit all those apartment buildings. And they could have disabled all the Russian tanks with their concealed Glocks Those commie tank commanders wouldn’t have known what hit them.
      Why didn’t I think of that ?

    • You’re “doubly sure” of a lot of things that you’re complete wrong about. Here’s a free piece of advice. Don’t believe everything you think. You’re welcome.

    • I’m thinking that the homicide rate in the U.S. would be a lot lower if our per-capita gun ownership rate were closer to Ukraine’s. I’m also thinking that the reason the U.S. isn’t being invaded has less to do with with our per-capita gun ownership rate than with the fact that neither of our next-door neighbors is governed by an acquisitive megalomaniac autocrat. True, Alaska could be menaced across the Bering Strait from far eastern Siberia, but Sarah Palin could probably take care of that, don’t you think?

  2. Keller, once again you don’t get John Axels principle. Liberals dont want anyone armed with any kind of weapon. This is not about Glocks shooting missiles, it is about a mindset. You always make illogical juxtapositions.

    • Andy– once again, you are clueless about what liberals want.
      You never have and you never will see me advocating for banning all guns.
      However, I am in favor of gun control. I don’t like the idea that a deranged 19 year old with a history of mental illness and violence can purchase a weapon capable of killing 10 people in 30 seconds, a day after he gets suspended from school.
      But back to Axel’s comment. It seems he assumes and thinks that armed people can stop an invasion spearheaded by tanks and backed up by cruise missiles and an advanced air force. Talk about an illogical juxtaposition…
      Just what does he think the Ukrainians are going to do with their concealed Glocks?
      You know, perhaps if the countries of the world spent as much on diplomacy as they do on weapons, this atrocity might have been prevented.
      And, let me remind you to never say “always” –When you use that word,you are always wrong. ALWAYS–

      • Don,
        Joe Biden correctly said that Afghanistan is where empires go to die. Russia experienced their Vietnam there and were defeated by gorilla warfare and small arms munitions. Ukrainian people have committed to dying free rather than living under tyrannical rule. Those small arms that you disparage give freedom loving people a chance. You being a naval veteran should know that more than anyone.

        • I’m leading a unit to join fighting in a town. We’re fired on while crossing a road. Field command says no other units in the area. Do we fire back? If you say yes, we possibly just killed some fathers from that town.

          Ukraine has a military, competent from what I’ve read.

        • Carl– one of my duties while in the Navy was to maintain the unit that vertically stabilized the barrel of the 5 inch guns. That piece of equipment happened to have the trigger for the gun on it.
          At the command of the captain I would pull the trigger that alerted everyone on the ship by means of a loud alarm that the third time I pulled the trigger the gun would go off– beeeeeppp — beeeeeppp- KA FREAKING BOOM !!! The whole 610 ft long 10,670 ton ship would jump with the power of the recoil.
          I was miles away from the target, 5 decks below the water line in a heavily reinforced and armored ship.
          As a navy veteran, I knew then, as I know now that small arms fire would have had zero effect on what I was doing..
          If the United States had sanctions against it like the Russians are now experiencing, perhaps the Nixon administration would not have been able to afford to pay me, or buy fuel and other necessary things, and the Vietnam war may have ended sooner.
          Yes, the Vietnamese eventually wore us down after 8 years, but at a horrific cost to all sides.

          • Don,
            I can’t say it enough, thank you for your service. Far too many innocent people have been killed and countesses lives destroyed as a result of war. I hope the sanctions work. I am doubtful. It would be horrific to watch my two college age sons go off to fight a war that one maniac has started but they I and they understand that freedom isn’t free. I think we are being goaded into this conflict with absolutely no winners.

  3. Ukrainians are literally begging America and the rest of the world for “Weapons” immediately if not sooner which will logically be the only thing to save them all from extermination! It will also possibly stop Putin from taking out more countries that are not part of NATO.
    Thank GOD we have our 2nd Amendment still as this could never happen in America because our citizenry is so lock & loaded that invaders like them would all have signed their own death warrants if they tried to do such a crazy thing in this manner.
    I am “doubly sure” that C.C. is completely wrong about a lot of things concerning this issue.
    Same goes for the folks that disagree with us on our southern border invaders. Two totally completely different issues which I do not have the time or the energy to explain.

    You want us to help Ukrainians, I definitely do and have from day one but exactly how “Peacefully”? Now Biden and Pelosi are starting to come around with us about not buying one more drop of oil from Russia, start supplying ourselves again, drill full blast here and send them Weapons galore.
    I just hope we don’t buy our oil from our other enemy Iran and lets just put this climate control stuff on hold for now.
    In closing, “Don’t believe everything you think” folks.

    • Ukraine has military, I suspect highly respected when still part of the Soviet Republic. Besides those on foot, they have tanks and an air force. America is sending Stinger missiles, reportedly way more than Germany, and other goodies.

    • Woody– you say “don’t believe everything you think.”
      I just want to inform you that the U.S produced more oil in November, December, and January
      of 2021 than in those months in 2020.

      • Ahhckk wrong again –I meant to say ” October , Nov, Dec of 2021″
        More oil was produced in Jan of 2020 than 2021 January figures for Jan of 2022 are not readily available

  4. Once again a Times story comment section has been hijacked by people touting their pet cause — in this case guns — that has nothing to do with the story itself. I am surprised that mask mandates and antivax rants have not appeared here. But stay tuned.

    And you mock people who take their time on a cold day to show their support for people who are suffering and dying? From your barcalounger? Very brave.

    This is about the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Try to focus. Try to care.

  5. Once again a clearly superior person pipes up to dictate who should say what in a Times comment thread, where, hold on to your bonnets, George is the only one who decides what is allowed. I’m not surprised, though. Stay tuned for the next time, 3 months from now, when we are again graced with more pearls of wisdom that put us all in our proper place— a place which is quite low on a ladder of superiority that, to be honest, no one else wants to climb up on at all.

    • George is the Decider?
      That rings a bell.
      He must be the Commander and Chief.
      Can he be impeached?

  6. I find it foolish that many think an armed population can repel a well equipped army. Try defending your home with an AR15 when the other side has missiles. Though stingers and javelins are relatively easy to use, defensive missiles that shoot down enemy aircraft, like Patriot missiles, take a year or more to learn how to use. If Russia really wants Ukraine, they have the army to take it. It would not matter if every Ukrainian carried a gun, the Russian army would simply blow your entire building down. I think the sanctions could work, and sending Ukraine weapons can delay their fall, but it all depends on Putin’s determination.

  7. One of the few remaining options to sanction Russia, and the one that is widely considered to possibly be most effective is to ban oil exports, not only to the U,S but to European countries as well. The problem is that the price of gas will go up. Some Americans feel that is too high of a price to pay to attempt to stop the slaughter of countless thousands of Ukrainians, and the destruction of their cities and their culture. It’s possible but unlikely the price of gas would increase by as much as $1 per gallon. Those who demand the freedom to waste 1/2 gallon of fuel and hour to let their f-350’s idle while going into the gun shop find that an even more egregious infringement on their “freedom” than wearing a mask to protect a few vulnerable people. Well, 44 million people in Ukraine are a bit vulnerable right now. By the way, it is already illegal to let your vehicle idle.
    But who cares about “laws” when the freedom to keep your fat lazy butt warm on a 50 degree spring day is on the line?

    But about those high prices– The Obama administration proposed and passed CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards to raise fuel efficiencies of new cars and light trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon, saving Americans 1.7 TRILLION dollars and reducing demand by 12 BILLION barrels a year— more than our total oil imports from Russia. — It was endorsed by the world’s 13 largest auto makers.

    Guess who rolled those standards back ? Yeah, you guessed right —

    And some here talk about supplying the Ukrainians with weapons.
    Well guess who refused to give the president of Ukraine weapons unless he dug up dirt on the son of his most threatening political rival ?
    You guessed right again.
    With all due respect to Carl Kelly, he is correct with his comment on March 6 11:04 pm–that the Ukrainians could wear the Russians down in 10 or 20 years with small arms fire.
    That is not an acceptable plan to me.
    I would rather pay a little more at the pump on the off chance it would end this conflict sooner.

    • Don,
      I would gladly pay more at the pump or better yet conserve our natural resources on a 50 degree day if it where going to make an immediate difference in this war. It’s naive to think green energy is going to make a difference in the short term and I am afraid that is where this administration is going. Now more than ever we need to buy time with an all of the above approach to our energy policy. Not so much for pricing but to take the power away from Russia and for our national security. We need to cut regulations that can get fossil fuels flowing while accelerating renewables. Even Elon Musk sees this.

      • Carl– I appreciate that you appreciate my military service. But your appreciation should be directed towards Woody Williams — as far as I can tell, he served with honor and dedication and deserves any accolades that you may direct towards truly dedicated service people.
        I joined the navy because I had the misfortune of having a low draft number in the lottery. I would have been drafted into the army, with a good prospect that I would wind up in a jungle in Vietnam.
        The navy on the other hand, offered me an education in electrical theory, and guaranteed I would not set foot on Vietnamize soil.
        The rub was 4 years in the navy vs 2 years in the army.
        I did what I was told, lots of drugs, and lots of prostitutes. I hated the navy, and the navy hated me. But I kept out of trouble and was never subject to any disciplinary action. When the war was winding down in late 1972, they came up with a program (NAVORD 230) to reduce the number of people in the navy. They targeted “misfits and malcontents”, which my commanding officer deemed me as both. I voluntary accepted an honorable discharge 20 months before my scheduled discharge date. I did nothing to be exceptionally proud of or ashamed of. I was just there.
        Having said that, it was a truly transformative experience, that I do not regret. But I understand why a 19year old Russian conscript in this war would commit unimaginable war crimes. It is part of the horror of the military industrial complex. It destroys lives on both sides.

      • Carl– I think we may agree on more than we think. Neither one of us is naïve about the situation or the difficulty of getting from here to there.
        I understand that we can not just turn the oil spigot off. I have a pretty good understanding of the logistical problems — (see Andrews comment and my response -Mar 7 3:47 pm )
        You understand that we need to get off the oil, but don’t have the same sense of urgency that I do, and are less willing to see disruptions in financial markets to make the transition than I am.
        But we both seem to have the same concerns and the same goal about a better future for our children. We just have a different opinion as to how to get there.
        Am I correct ?

  8. Biden is panhandling with hat in hand for oil from Saudi and OPEC; continues to buy from Russia and wont increase pumping here in the US. What price does gas have to go to before someone wakes up. I know Keller’s heart grieves for Ukrainians but not for the poor people in this country that have seen gas double in 14 months and 200bucks per barrel of oil on the horizon. Oh I forgot. This is the price one pays to transition to Green. People have to suffer so that everyone can be on solar and wind and EV batteries

    • You just suggested gas prices in America should be of greater concern than the lives of Ukrainians. Nothing to argue, you made your point.

    • Andy– You have probably posted more ridiculous comments, but this one is right up there in my opinion. “green” power has nothing to do with pumping gas.
      In fact more gas was pumped in the fall of 2021 than 2020-in the u.s – What are you talking about ?
      And by the way all that green power now makes about 20 % of all power generated in the U.S.
      That number is increasing rapidly because it is cheaper and more stable in price than oil.
      You are also NOT correct that the price of gas has nearly doubled in the last 14 months. Just for the record— the highest average price for regular gas at the pump , NOT adjusted for inflation was $4.11 in July of 2008. Today it is $4.06.
      It was $2.76 one year ago.
      Everything else has gone up in price since 2008– I hear all the whiners on the right gnashing their teeth about inflation. Why should gas be exempt from that ?

      People with electric cars powered by solar panels on their roofs have not seen any increase in their transportation cost. How smart do you have to be to figure out that the cheapest way to get from point a to point b in your car is to have a “green” one. Better yet, for many island needs , an e-bike.
      I don’t understand how people can whine about the price of gas increasing while putting their heads in various places and ignoring ways to mitigate it– including shutting their car off when you are not in it. It’s just as stupid as stupid does.
      Please impart some of your great economic wisdom and share with us how the sale of solar panels and wind turbines translate into higher prices for petroleum products? My opinion , is that it does not. If oil gets to $200 a gallon, it’s because a deranged dicktater in Europe has lulled the “west” into a severe dependency on their petro products. To think otherwise is complete foolishness playing into his hands.
      And, since you think everyone who disagrees with your opinions is trying to “control” you,
      I would like to know directly and specifically from you how you think someone with a solar panel on their roof is “controlling” you. And why– Aren’t they busy enough trying to control you by getting toxic materials out of the environment ?
      How does anything “green” do anything to the price of oil except reduce it because of reduced demand ?

    • Has the existence of solar and wind driven up the price of oil?
      What has happened to laws of supply and demand?

  9. Keller
    A typical EV battery weighs one thousand pounds, about the size of a travel trunk. It contains twenty-five pounds of lithium, sixty pounds of nickel, 44 pounds of manganese, 30 pounds cobalt, 200 pounds of copper, and 400 pounds of aluminum, steel, and plastic. Inside are over 6,000 individual lithium-ion cells.
    It should concern you that all those toxic components come from mining. For instance, to manufacture each EV auto battery, you must process 25,000 pounds of brine for the lithium, 30,000 pounds of the ore for the cobalt, 5,000 pounds of the ore for the nickel, and 25,000 pounds of the ore for copper. All told, you dig up 500,000 pounds of the earth’s crust for just – one – battery.”
    Sixty-eight percent of the world’s cobalt, a significant part of a battery, comes from the Congo. Their mines have no pollution controls and they employ children who die from handling this toxic material. Should we factor in these diseased kids as part of the cost of driving an electric car?” Tears for Ukrainians indeed.

    • Andy– believe me, I am very aware of the environmental and human costs of producing a lithium Ion battery for an EV — I have noted it on this forum many times, with documentation.
      And let me post a little ‘whataboutism”
      That is why I am first and foremost for conservation. I have expressed my disgust about people who would throw their expired li-ion battery in the trash along with their expired smart phone. All those materials you speak of are recyclable– but for some reason, that word “recyclable” seems to elicit a visceral response from the right wing nut cases who don’t want to be bothered , and for sure don’t want any government agency infringing on their “right ” to throw whatever they want away. And I am equally disgusted with those who waste a limited resource (oil) with total disregard for the human , environmental and financial cost associated with getting that product to market.

      Tell me Andy– you seem to be concerned about the children of the Congo. Do you take the time out of your busy life to make sure the batteries in your devices get properly recycled ?

  10. Here’s what I’d like to see happen — all those truckers wasting gas on a outdated cause, drive around the country collecting privately owned guns. A Gun Drive so to speak, then have a Go-Fund-Me account raise money for a 747 to fly to Poland. And if any of the gun-totters in our country want to hop a ride on that plane to Poland and fight along side the brave Ukrainians, well, have at it!

    • Lorraine– great idea– since there are 1.2 guns in this country for every man woman and child, and about 80 % of those guns are owned by 30% of the people, why are they not donating guns directly to Ukraine ? Freedom is as freedom does after all–

      • Now, Don. No one should expect to be the beneficiary of giving by others. That would be communism.

        • Neil–Good point– but if you are giving something to defeat communism, is it ok then ?
          It’s a real paradox for the commie hating gun toters–
          I just wrote to Sarah Palin and asked her– She can see Russia from her place, she hates all things commie, and has lots of guns.
          She wasn’t that hard to contact, but I’m hoping to get a response real soon, since I pretended to be a republican.
          This is what I wrote:
          “Hey Sarah– How ya doin’ — A big thums up to my favrit socar mom . So sad to heer that some cansel cultcher liberal juge threw out your defamie librel suit. or whatever it was– it’s just not fare. –But I was a wonderin if its patriotic to donate a gun to the Ukrainians . My dilemma is that donating is in itself a commie kind of thingie thing to do , but if it’s going to fite commies, is that the right thingie to do ? ‘Cha get what I mean ? I await your wisdum on this complexity issue.. Thanks , And trump bless America .”

  11. The Film Society will do its part, the best way it can, by offering a SPECIAL SCREENING/FUNDRAISER for HUMANITARIAN AID TO UKRAINE this Saturday, March 12th at 7:30pm. I hope you can join us and learn more about this conflict and Ukrainian lives.

    THE EARTH IS BLUE AS A ORANGE (Ukraine) — Exquisitely shot and bold in its storytelling approach, director Iryna Tsilyk’s documentary follows single mother Anna and her four children as they document their lives under siege in Ukraine (remember pro-Russian groups started this conflict in 2014). With miraculous insight, “The Earth Is Blue as an Orange” observes a family—and a filmmaker—coping with war using their cameras, working in tandem to create meaning out of a meaningless conflict. This film premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

  12. Why do so many Comments sections devolve into shouting matches, often completely off topic?
    This was a peace rally. It was in support of a Western democratic nation being invaded and destroyed by a tyrant. They need our aid, and moral support.
    We’re sorry we were off island not to be there too. Bless you all.

  13. Thank you Richard Paradise, for putting a very human face on the crises by offering this movie at the Film Center. Those who can’t attend should donate to this fundraiser.
    And thank you for giving us a break from the rantings of all the “frequent filers” to these comments sections.

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