‘... in the background, artillery’

12 Ukrainian flags will soon fly on Main Street in MainStrasse Village, with the first one raised Wednesday by Covington City Commissioner Shannon Smith, whose stepmother is from the war-torn country.

Covington raises Ukrainian flag in solidarity

as City Commissioner describes phone calls from war zone

COVINGTON, Ky. – The blue-and-yellow flag of Ukraine began flying in an official capacity Wednesday on Main Street, a symbolic gesture of the City’s solidarity with the beleaguered country since Russian troops began invading last month.

It’s the first of a dozen Ukrainian flags that will officially fly in a one-block area of MainStrasse Village.

“This is a symbol of how what happens over 5,000 miles away, in a fight for freedom and democracy, resonates personally right here in Covington,” said Covington Mayor Joe Meyer before introducing City Commissioner Shannon Smith, whose stepmother is from the Ukraine.

Residents, media, and City officials and staff listened as Smith shared details of her stepmother’s conversations with family and friends in the war zone, and her feelings of fear, strength, and hope.

“I spoke with her last night. She spoke with passion, but through tears,” Smith said. “She fears for the safety of her family and friends. She shared with me the phone calls that she’s been getting from family. The first phone call she got, in the background she could hear artillery shots.”

Smith described another friend of her stepmother’s who is currently living in a skyscraper caring for her mother. The Russian military shut down power to the building and the daughter leaves to get resources, not knowing whether she’ll be able to return and, if not, who would care for her mother. She fears that the skyscraper will be targeted by Russian forces.

Smith said her stepmother still has an apartment in Kyiv and visited there right before the invasion. Smith said the raising of the Ukrainian flag today in Covington are among the events that give her stepmother “strength and hope.”

“She shared with me that she was very excited and proud that we were doing this here in Covington,” Smith said. “She shared that the Ukraine is its own independent and passionate people with their own traditions, their own culture. And she said they’re prepared to fight for it.”

Smith told the crowd there are numerous ways to show support for the Ukrainians.

“We’re going to raise these flags today, but I want you to know, not only can we raise flags, but we can raise hopes and raise funds,” Smith said.

She said her stepmother told her there were organizations on the ground in the Ukraine that will distribute equipment to civilians who are defending their country, and that contributions could be made to the Ukrainian military.

“When she shared that with me, I assured her that today I would share it with you all,” Smith said. “I just want to thank you again and let you know that it means the world to her – it means the world to me -- and I truly believe that by raising this flag, we are reaching Ukraine and raising hope.”

Her remarks finished, Commissioner Smith climbed in the bucket of a Public Works “cherry-picker” to hang the first Ukrainian flag. Then she turned to the crowd with a triumphant “thumbs up.”

Also speaking was Matt Lehman, a Covington Catholic High School graduate who lived and worked in the Ukraine for several years, and still has friends in the country.

“At this point I just want to make sure they’re safe, and that they stay alive,” said Lehman, who now lives in Newport.

“It’s really a matter of survival at this point. I’m trying to work with some organizations that are helping. I was in the medical research field and was on the board of an organization called The Children of Chernobyl Relief Funds, we were helping children affected by the Chernobyl disaster, so that group has reorganized and is trying to help, especially the pediatric patients in the Ukraine. It’s about what can we do, help people get the resources they need.”

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