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Ukrainian Diaspora in Australia Rallies for Compatriots Under Attack

FILE - Members of the Ukrainian Australian community and supporters participate in a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at the Sydney Opera House, in Sydney, March 1, 2022.

Members of the Ukrainian community in Australia hold daily protests and raise funds as they stand in solidarity with compatriots under attack by Russian forces.

Since the invasion, St. Andrew's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Sydney has become a beacon of prayer and pride.

Most members of the congregation have friends and family living in Ukraine.

The Reverend Simon Ckuj, a Melbourne-born priest, says even in troubled times, forgiveness is vital.

"Despite the darkness that is overshadowing us, we must always focus on the light, and this is where the Church plays such an important role — to help people, to guide them through these difficult times. I, too, feel rage. I, too, feel, you know, at times, even hatred, I dare say, to those who are committing these things, but that is what they want us to feel," said Ckuj.

Teresa Huzij is a second-generation Ukrainian Australian. Her grandparents immigrated to Australia after World War II.

Every day, she says, she is messaging relatives in Ukraine, sending her support.

"Ukrainians have always been and will always be free, because that is who we are," she said.

Australia has imposed sanctions on hundreds of Russian politicians, including President Vladimir Putin and military officials.

Canberra has also spent $50 million (USD) on weaponry and ammunition for Ukrainian forces.

The Ukrainian community has also raised money to send aid.

Olexa Matiouk's parents moved to Australia when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. His grandparents and cousins still live there.

He welcomes Australia's help for the Ukrainian people.

"The support that the Australian government is providing is very good to see — the fact that they are providing both military and humanitarian support. Originally, they were only considering humanitarian support, but I think that they can see that Ukrainians are fighting for themselves and that they are not going to collapse like Putin was expecting, and to see that military support shows a sign of solidarity," Matiouk said.

Australia said Friday it would join the United States and Britain in banning imports of Russian oil.

Australia is not a major importer of Russian energy resources, but a spokesperson for Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the additional sanction would "collectively curtail Russia's revenue and ability to finance Russian President Vladimir Putin's unjustified war against Ukraine."