On Thursday 10th March at 6pm, the Refugee and Migrant Centre hosted a peace vigil in St. Peter’s Square, Wolverhampton, outside the Civic Centre.
The Mayor or Wolverhampton, Greg Brackenridge opened the proceedings and was followed by speeches from RMC’s CEO Arten Llazari, Polish colleague Anna Toporowska-Jassal and members of the Ukrainian community.
Councillor Wendy Thompson, Interfaith Wolverhampton chair Cllr Jasbinder Dehar, and WVSC CEO Ian Darch also shared messages of support.
A sea of Ukrainian flags was on display, with the Council providing flag posters and encouraging people to take them home and display them in their windows.
“I and many other civic members have been overwhelmed with messages of support from our diverse communities here in Wolverhampton. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart. This tragedy is unfolding in front of our very eyes, which threatens the security of the entire world. The needless loss of life of innocent civilians must stop. The illegal invasion of a sovereign nation must end.”Mayor Greg Brackenridge
RMC’s CEO Arten Llazari hosted the Vigil and spoke himself during the night. Having lived under a dictatorship and witnessed war in the Balkans in the 90s before coming to the UK himself to seek safety, his empathy and emotion was clear to see.
“Our thoughts are with all the innocent victims in Ukraine, its defenders and those having to flee in terror. I hope the only silver lining from this terrible war will be the end of Putin’s time in power.”Arten Llazari, RMC’s CEO
Ukrainian participants led the gathering in prayers conducted in both Ukrainian and English. A collection took place during the vigil to raise funds in support.
Anna Toporowska-Jassal, RMC manager, spoke of being with her daughter in Poland when the war started, and seeing the amazing response of Poland and the local community in her village, which is very close to the border.
“People were doing everything possible, offering houses, even if it was a room to accommodate a family. Local community centres were prepared to take refugees, people were driving their own cars to the border to actually bring refugees, donations were being collected in all possible places, shops, churches….Those people are really in need; they leave their houses and come with small bags, sometimes even nothing at all, as they had to run.”Anna Toporowska-Jassal – RMC Manager
The peace vigil was covered by BBC Midlands Today, Free Radio, and by the Express and Star.