This article was written by BenitoLink intern Juliana Luna
On March 12, four San Benito County residents gathered at the corner of Nash Road and Highway 25 in support of the Ukrainian people carrying signs with Ukraine’s blue and yellow flag and statements including “No War,” “#Glory to Ukraine” and “Honk 4 Ukraine.”
Rally organizer and San Benito County resident Elia Salinas said she let the public know about the rally via social media and mentioned it in a Hollister City Council meeting
“We are the first ones in the area, including Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Santa Clara counties, who have come out in support of Ukraine,” she said.
The rally for Ukraine was special for Salinas as she has a Ukrainian friend.
“I have a friend who lost his company, money has been cut off, he’s currently trying to get his wife and child out of Ukraine and into Europe,” Salinas said.
Her friend, who Salinas chose not to name, is trying to enter the United States soon after leaving his home country, she said.
Salinas added that she helps him financially.
“I wanted to do a GoFundMe account in his name, but he was too humble and said there are more people in need than he is,” she said.
Salinas said she also knows a woman from Ukraine whose family is living there. She plans to invite her to join her for the next rally she organizes.
Elizabeth Zepeda Gonzalez invited the community to join the next rally, planned for downtown Hollister.
Rally participants received positive feedback from passersby, with pedestrians saluting them and many drivers responding with honks.
Gonzalez said awareness of Ukraine’s situation is nationwide and it is an unjust war. She said she has acquaintances living in Ukraine who post on social media about the catastrophes occurring there. She also said they also share resources available for those affected.
“Dr. Gallen Cooperman along with the Health Foundation took the first steps in sending first aid kits to Ukraine,” said Gonzalez.
Lauretta Avina, a guidance technician at San Benito High School, waved at the cars passing by and said, “I’m out here in support of the Ukraine people.”
She added, “I’m out here to support democracy because it is under attack. [I’m] out here to remind people that democracy is fragile. Democracy always has to be defended and democracy is never free.”
Avina recommended contacting the Community Foundation For San Benito County, to send any donations for Ukraine. They have opened a relief fund, and it’s “a place to give and feel safe,” she said.
Participating in a rally is another way of demonstrating support besides donating money, said Avina. It’s a way to channel feelings in support of the Ukrainian people and democracy.
Asked if San Benito County residents are aware of Ukraine’s situation, Avina said there are people who recognize it. However, she said, there is also a small group of people who feel it’s a waste of time to show support for the Ukrainian people even if it’s a symbolic gesture.
“It’s very sad, it’s disturbing,” she said. “We’re just showing our humanity and our love for humankind.”
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