PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Hundreds of people showed up in the rain in downtown Portland to display their support for Ukrainian families in the region and those still in Ukraine.

More than 20,000 Oregonians are of Ukrainian ancestry, and some at the rally are themselves refugees whose family members are now in the war zone. They gathered to send a message of support and an offer to help loved ones in Ukraine, now fully under an unprovoked attack from Russia.

The “Support Ukraine, Stop Putin” rally started around 4 p.m. Saturday at the Salmon Street Springs Fountain. It was organized by the Ukrainian-American Cultural Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington and follows another rally held earlier in the week at the same location.

Maria Zadorozhny is in close contact with family in Ukraine. She immigrated to the US when she was 8. Now, she and her husband are very worried.

Valentyma drove to Portland from Eugene to be part of the downtown rally. She told KOIN 6 News she was just in Ukraine 3 weeks ago to visit. She is now extremely worried about her sister and nephews.

Outside Revolution Hall in Southeast Portland a similar crowd gathered. But that rally was sponsored by Oregonians of Russian descent who support Ukraine and are angry with Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade.

“The most awful things in the world, they happen in silence when people are silent,” one man named Alexei told KOIN 6 News. “I don’t want to be silent. I want to speak out and say Russian people are against this war.”

Some at the rallies want the US and NATO to provide military aid to Ukraine. They warn the invasion is a sign that peace anywhere — even here — is not guaranteed.

These supporters want the public at large to understand more about the invasion and how it is devastating to their friends and family who live there — and are unsure of what will happen next.

“The most awful things in the world, they happen in silence when people are silent.”

— Alexei, who attended a support Ukraine rally in Portland

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden told KOIN 6 News on Friday that he’s pleased with President Joe Biden’s actions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

“I want Oregonians to know that it’s their guy on the Senate Finance Committee,” Wyden said. “I’m going to make sure that Putin has only enough rubles left to put them in a wheelbarrow and push them through Red Square.”

Hundreds gathered in downtown Portland in a rally of support for Ukraine, February 26, 2022 (KOIN)

These rallies came as a rapid Russian offensive swept the country this week. On Thursday in a state-televised address, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” against the neighboring country, and reports soon surfaced of missile strikes and skirmishes across Ukraine.

The events happened quickly in late February after Russia spent weeks amassing what U.S. intelligence estimated to be between 100,000 to 190,000 troops along its border with Ukraine.

Within days, the fighting spread and recent reports have detailed intense shootouts in the streets surrounding Kyiv, and in nearby airports. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reportedly refused a U.S. offer to evacuate and has opted instead to stay in the embattled capital.

In recent days, the Biden administration has agreed to send millions in defense aid to Ukraine. The administration has also levied punitive sanctions against high-profile Russian oligarchs and leaders, including Putin himself, that aim to cut Russia off from U.S. financial markets. The White House promised it would not send American troops to fight in Ukraine, however, it has announced military deployments to Germany and other NATO allies in the region.