The largest flag in Ukraine – all 200 meters (656 feet) of it – was on display at Kyiv’s Olympic stadium on Wednesday, with hundreds of people holding it up while singing the national anthem and other patriotic songs.
They were marking Ukraine’s “Day of Unity,” an impromptu celebration declared by
President Volodymyr Zelensky.
For Serhii Kachinskyi, 45, Unity Day is all about showing the world that everyday Ukrainians like himself are not afraid of potential armed conflict.
We have lived with this for eight years, we understand what’s happening and we are not afraid, we are standing together and this is in the heart of every Ukrainian, ”he said.
While he said the situation has felt the same for much of the past eight years, he sees one big difference.
We became more united, we are thinking more about the country and we became more responsible, ”he said.
Wednesday’s significance: Zelensky announced that today would be a “Day of Unity” during an address to the nation on Monday, remarking with irony that his government was told Wednesday was the day Russia would invade Ukraine.
“We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack. We will make it the Day of Unity. The relevant decree has already been signed. On this day, we will hoist national flags, put on blue and yellow ribbons and show the world our unity, ”Zelensky said.
While the celebrations were muted, with some events around the country only attended by a handful of people, large and small flags were flying on many street corners.
The digital panels normally displaying commercials in Kyiv’s streets were switched to a video showing the flash flying, and some government buildings were covered with giant blue and yellow banners.
Explaining war to children: Natalya Schamych said she came to the stadium in order to be a good example for her son. Kids were not allowed at the event, but she will relay the events to him. Schamych wants her son to grow up to be a responsible citizen, so she often talks about politics and civic duty with him, she said.
“I’d like for him to stay in our country and to have a desire to leave. I want him to have respect for the country, to live and work here, ”she said.
She said her son was too young to understand the full picture, but that he knows what is going on.
“We are trying to give him information in a way he can understand, we don’t want him to get too scared,” she said. , he knows where he lives, he knows that there is a war. “
Life goes on: Meanwhile, rushing to work in central Kyiv, 48-year-old Alim wrapped himself in a Ukrainian flag as if it was a superhero cape. He has been carrying the flag with him every day for eight years now, he told CNN.
As a Crimean Tatar, he never accepted the Russian annexation of his home region in 2014.
“It’s my civilian position. I am from Crimea, I’ve been wearing it since the occupation, ”he said.
Around the corner, foreign dignitaries, including the German and EU ambassadors to Ukraine, were laying flowers by the Memorial Wall dedicated to those who defended Ukraine during the war that started in 2014.
Many pinned their coats with blue and yellow ribbons to show their solidarity with Ukraine.
For Alim though, Wednesday was just another day. Another day of wearing the flag, going about his own business.
Yulia Kesaieva contributed reporting to this post.