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Women's March SLO rally to show solidarity with Ukraine

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For Andrea Chmelik, a Pismo Beach resident and co-executive director of Women's March San Luis Obispo, watching Russia's invasion of Ukraine is like "watching history repeat itself."

Born and raised in former Czechoslovakia, Chmelik lived under Soviet Union rule until its fall in 1989. In 1968, she said, the country had a brief moment of political and social liberation, but like with Russia in Ukraine today, the Soviet Union responded by invading.

"There were efforts to bring some more liberties to the country, like freedom of press, freedom of speech," Chmelik told New Times. "Then people woke up and found Soviet tanks and military in the street. Everything went back to elections with one party, being forced to vote for the Communist Party, and no freedom of press or freedom of speech. There are just so many parallels between Slovakia and Ukraine with this occupation again."

IN SOLIDARITY Women March SLO's annual rally on March 5 will raise money to support Ukrainian refugees in the wake of Russia's military invasion. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • IN SOLIDARITY Women March SLO's annual rally on March 5 will raise money to support Ukrainian refugees in the wake of Russia's military invasion.

In a gesture of solidarity with Ukrainians, Women's March SLO recently announced that it will donate a portion of the funds it raises at its annual rally on March 5 to People in Need, a Slovakia-based organization actively providing aid to Ukrainian refugees.

Event organizers also plan to speak out against the war during the rally, which kicks off at noon in SLO's Mitchell Park. The event will celebrate five years of the local Women's March, and it features a lineup of speakers who will talk about issues like reproductive freedom, racial injustice, voter suppression, and the climate crisis.

"When the Women's March got started, it was in response to events where many people were worried that democracy was under attack, that we were heading into times of not just the misogyny and sexism that we saw in 2016, but truly the fear that some of the democratic principles that we rely on and take for granted might be under attack," Chmelik said. "I think we all realized with the last administration that there was good reason to be worried about those issues."

Chmelik said that the tragic events in Ukraine serve as a painful reminder that democracy is fragile and requires citizen vigilance, participation, and defense—traits that are on full display by the Ukrainian people right now.

"Democracy is not easy. It takes work," Chmelik said. "You can't afford the cynicism that always creeps in. That's my big concern.

"That's one reason why I'm glad we're going to be standing in solidarity with Ukraine," she continued. "It's to support the people who are currently there and suffering and the incredible bravery we're seeing, but it's also as a reminder that we have our own work to do here." Δ

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