Dasha Banks was just a girl when she and her mother emigrated from Ukraine to the United States.
“I’m standing in front of you as an American,” she said outside the city hall on Tuesday afternoon. “But I also stand in front of you as a young woman who came to this country with a single mother after the collapse of the Soviet Union.”
Bunk beds and other Ukrainian Americans joined Mayor Eddie Moran and two city council members as they raised the Ukrainian flag in front of the city hall.
She was one of the four Berks County residents of Ukrainian ancestors who shared their story before raising the bright yellow and blue flags.
The horizontal colored strips of the flag represent the blue sky and yellow wheat fields that characterize the country.
The bank contacted locals with parliamentary representatives and urged Ukrainian refugees fleeing their country during a Russian attack to open the United States.
“Tell them that you need to accept Ukrainian refugees now,” she said.
She also asked the locals to show support for Ukraine by donating to organizations that can support the supply of food and other necessities.
Donations of blankets, flashlights, batteries and other items to Ukraine will be accepted at the city hall throughout the week, Moran said.
Another speaker, Jessica Ditt, was born in New England, the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants.
She said her father came to the United States as a boy with his sister and his parents to escape the post-WWII Soviet crackdown. They were only four of the approximately 80,000 Ukrainian immigrants who fled to the United States during the post-war years from 1947 to 1955.
“They came here hoping for a new life with the opportunity,” she said, saying that many of the people who settled in Burks have relatives in Ukraine.
“Thanks for the support here,” she said. “We are grateful that our city is aware of what is happening outside the city, state and country.”
Air Force veteran Marie A. Morton talked about her grandparents who came from different parts of Ukraine and settled on Minor Street in Reading.
She was joined by councilors Donna Reed and Marcia Goodman Hinnersitz on the podium.
Goodman-Hinnershitz said her grandparents, Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, also came to the United States to escape persecution.
She and Reed read the poem “First They Came” by Martin Niemöller, a German Lutheran minister who spent seven years in a Nazi concentration camp.
The well-known poem ends with the line, “Then they came for me — and no one spoke for me.”
“This poem is shared by all who are facing this kind of persecution,” said Goodman Hinnersitz. “We need to make sure that oppressed people around the world know what the United States is talking about for them.”
Ukrainian flag raised at the reading city hall
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