Minneapolis is the first stop on 'Whistlestops for Ukraine' support initiative

A gym with a sign in support of ukraine
The gym at the Ukrainian American Community Center, stacked with donations that the center distributes through its aid programs on Thursday.
Estelle Timar-Wilcox | MPR News

Philanthropists and government officials visited Minneapolis’s Ukrainian American Community Center Thursday to seek continued support for Ukraine in the war against Russia. 

Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova joined the event and asked people in Minnesota to remember that the war is still going on.  

“It is important for Americans, not only for Ukrainians, to live in a world where peaceful countries can actually live without being attacked by an aggressive neighbor: where we don’t have to fight wars, but we can actually go and raise children and grow food,” Markarova said.  

Her visit to Minneapolis was the first on the “Whistlestops for Ukraine” initiative, an effort led by philanthropist Howard Buffett and the think tank the German Marshall Fund. It’s traveling to several states across the Midwest to encourage support for Ukraine, as congressional funding stalls. 

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Buffett joined the ambassador at the community center Thursday. He echoed her call for support. 

“I hear a lot of people say they support Ukraine, and I ask, what have you done about it? Who have you told? Who have you written a letter to?” Buffett said. “How have you made it clear that you as a U.S. citizen believe that this country should support Ukraine?”  

The visitors met with the community center’s leadership and took a turn through their facility, which includes a gym piled high with items donated to send to Ukraine. The community center has served as a home base for aid efforts in Minnesota, and for programs welcoming Ukrainian refugees. 

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Hopkins Mayor Patrick Hanlon also joined the event, reaffirming their cities’ support for aid to Ukraine.   

Ambassador Markarova said she’s appreciated the support Ukraine has seen, both from citizens and from the federal government.  

“We are fighting this fight every day,” Markarova said. “There are barrages of missiles and drones on peaceful cities every day, but we will stay the course. We need you, our friends, to stay the course with us.”