‘People are scared’: Ukraine’s Greek communities in agony as war rages on


At least ten Greek nationals have been killed and six others, among them one child, have been wounded in Russian bombing near the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to the Greek Foreign Ministry.

This came as the Russian offensive in Ukraine enters the fifth day with massive sea, land and air attacks which has so far killed more than 200 civilians and wounded hundreds.

READ MORE: World leaders react as Ukraine loses control of Chernobyl to Russian forces.

Greece is “appalled by and unequivocally condemns the bombing of civilians” by Russia, reads a statement issued by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday, while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed his solidarity to Ukraine.

But as the conflict rages, thousands of Greek expatriates who live in Mariupol, the heart of the ethnic Greek community that dates back to the 18th century, fear for their lives.

READ MORE: It’s war: Russian President Putin declares ‘military operation’ in Ukraine.

Residential areas are among those that came under fire in Mariupol. Photo: Sky News.

“There is very heavy shelling in Mariupol and in Kyiv, especially since last night. The Russians started to bombard residential districts in Mariupol and there is damage to the children’s hospital and infrastructure. People are hiding in the basements and until Monday they can’t go out due to curfews,” Vice President of the Kiev Hellenic Community “Enotita”, Anton Savidi, told The Greek Herald on Sunday.

“In Mariupol the situation is worse because in many places there is no water, no electricity and yesterday there was constant bombing by land and air.

READ MORE: Greece affirms solidarity with diaspora in Ukraine amid tensions with Russia.

“The settlements where many Greeks currently live are under attack and there are people, most of them women, children and older people, who can’t be evacuated. People are scared.”

He said air raid sirens continue to sound across the state to warn people to run to underground shelters, while he mentioned the Ukrainian army is facing shortages in basic equipment.

READ MORE: Greek President expresses support for diaspora in Ukraine amid tensions with Russia.

A Ukrainian rocket launcher vehicle drives west of the coastal city of Mariupol, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria.

“There is a lack in protective equipment like helmets. There are no big shortages in food but we expect them to develop as people can’t go out. Ukraine now needs international support. Weapons, money, medicines to help stop this invasion,” Mr Savidi said.

On Sunday, Prime Minister, Scott Morrison announced that Australia will provide funds for “lethal aid” to Ukraine’s war effort while Greece will dispatch military equipment and humanitarian aid.

READ MORE: Greece sending military, civilian aid to Ukraine.

“Support Ukraine because we, Greeks here, suffer the same with other people who live in the country. Tell your government to pressure Russia,” Mr Savidi said.

Australia’s Greek community send messages of support:

In response to these personal accounts, Australia’s Greek community have sent messages of support to the Greek communities of Ukraine.

The President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Bill Papastergiadis, sent a message over the weekend to the President of the Kiev Greek Society, Nina Paskal, expressing the Community’s “heartfelt thoughts, hopes and prayers” in the face of Russia’s invasion.

READ MORE: Greece ‘in full coordination’ with EU, NATO as Russia sends troops into Ukraine

Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Bill Papastergiadis.

“We want our compatriots in the Ukraine to know that the Greek diaspora in far-away Melbourne stands with them,” Mr Papastergiadis wrote in his message.

“If there is anything that we could do for you and your community, please do not hesitate to ask.”

Mr Papastergiadis also wrote to the Co-Chair of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations, Stefan Romaniw OAM, and the President of the Association of Ukrainians in Victoria, Liana Slipetsky, condemning “the aggression against the people of Ukraine.”

“We stand in solidarity with our local Ukrainian community members,” Mr Papastergiadis wrote.

READ MORE: Kyriakos Mitsotakis reaffirms Greece’s support of Ukraine’s ‘territorial integrity’.

Elsewhere, His Eminence Archbishop Makarios of Australia also condemned the “unprovoked attack” of Russia on Ukraine during a phone conversation with the Honorary Consul General of Ukraine in Sydney, Jaroslav Roman Duma.

Archbishop Makarios of Australia.

“In the last hours, we are watching with indescribable sadness the horrible face of the war… due to the unacceptable decision of the leadership of the Russian Federation to invade the territory of the Republic of Ukraine with military means,” His Eminence later said in a message.

“This is not the world that Christ envisioned for the human race! This is not the teaching of our Holy Gospels! The pursuit of war in our faith and conscience does not fit! It is the duty of every Orthodox Christian to call for peace!”

His Eminence concluded by declaring that “the Holy Archdiocese of Australia is unwaveringly in favour of law and truth.”




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