Hundreds join Kendal demonstration to show solidarity with Ukraine

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Kendal last night to show support for those trapped inside the besieged Ukranian city of Mariupol.

It's been surrounded by Russian forces since the early days of the war and subjected to regular shelling and missile attacks.

Marchers in Kendal called for further global action to prevent further loss of life. Mostly they say they wanted to show their solidarity and to do something at a time when so many feel helpless.

Credit: Jonny Gios

Mhairi Helme, March for Mariupol Organiser, said the demonstration was an "act of love".

"I think everybody's been feeling just desperately upset about what's happening," she told ITV Border.

"It's really touched so many people in the UK and people want to do something and there's a definite feeling of helplessness I think.

Mhairi Helme giving her speech Credit: Jonny Gios

"My Granddad's actually from near Lviv, which is in Ukraine now, he was Polish at the time but, so I feel a real link with the area."

Organisers estimate that 250 people came out to walk through Kendal with banners and Ukrainian colours, with many more apologies from those isolating due to the recent spike in covid cases.

They met in the centre of Kendal to talk about what was happening almost two thousands miles away and raised money for two charities helping people in Ukraine.

The two charities were Kendal-based Ukrainian children's home charity New Gebinnings and British-Ukrainian Aid, which is providing much-needed hemostasis first aid kits to civilians and soldiers on the front line.

Credit: Jonny Gios

"My own children are 7.5 and a 5.5 and they're aware of what's going on so there was a lot of children," Mhairi continued.

"At the other end of the spectrum I was just humbled: there was some elderly people out and it was clearly a long way round for them to walk, there was you know a couple of people walking with sticks and they were just determined that they were going to do it, they were going to get round and it was like an act of love really for some people it really was and we raised some money for charity as well."

Some of those who came out included those from Ukraine and Poland who now call Cumbria home."We are worried because we have a border with Ukraine and 20 kilometers from my hometown  the bombs explode. So I have to be worried," said a Polish man living in Kendal.

"In my hometown there is 50,000 people living there. Already we have 60,000 Ukrainian people there. We are helping them but for how long?"

Credit: Jonny Gios

They were answering a call from Ukrainian President Zelenskyy who asked people all around the world to take to the streets to show their support a month on from the start of the war in Ukraine.

Each night he gives his address to Ukrainian people but one month on he chose to deliver it in English as well.

"It breaks my heart, hearts of all Ukrainians and every free person on the planet," he said.

"That's why I ask you to stand against the war. Come from your offices, your homes, your schools and universities. Come in the name of peace.

"Come with Ukrainian symbols to support Ukraine; to support freedom; to support life. Say that people matter; freedom matters; peace matters; Ukraine matters."

His call from a wartime bunker was answered on streets of Kendal 1,750 miles away.

When I asked whether a march could affect real change, organiser Mhari told me she was glued to the events unfolding on social media and she's read many times how much it means to people in Ukraine when they see people many miles away care and support them.

Perhaps in these days of social media and our virtually-connected world, it is possible that 250 people on the streets of a small Cumbrian town can make someone in a war torn city feel less alone.

Many who attended told me it was very moving and they wished they could do more.