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Freedom Bell rings in Balboa Park to mark anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

The Ukrainian national anthem echoed on the square in front of San Diego’s Air and Space Museum Thursday for a ceremony on the eve of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The House of Ukraine, the Air and Space Museum and the Spirit of Liberty Foundation organized the event, but America’s Freedom Bell was the guest of honor. It is forged with steel from the Twin Towers, which fell on Sept. 11, 2001.

"May this occasion serve as a reminder of the founding principles of our nation and the importance of promoting freedom and liberty for all around the world, especially in Ukraine," said Richard Rovsek, the chair of the Spirit of the Liberty Foundation.


The bell was rung 365 times: once for each day since the invasion.

The first to ring the bell was retired Marine Capt. Robert Modrzejewski, a Medal of Freedom recipient, who said most of the U.S.'s wars have been for freedom. He added: "This is just another occasion for freedom for the Ukrainian people, and I support you."

One by one people lined up to ring the bell. Many came waving the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag. One man with a flag said: "Thank you for supporting us — we are all united!"

Some of the bell ringers dressed in traditional Ukrainian clothing with flowers in their hair, while others wrapped themselves in blue and yellow.

Ringing the Freedom Bell was a powerful experience for Oksana Piggubna and her teenage daughter Nina Piggubna, who have been in the United States for two years.


"This moment was something that helped me feel that I'm at home because, if you check the history, Ukraine has always fought for freedom," Nina said, weeping as she spoke of her friends and her uncles who are on the front lines.

Oksana said the family couldn't rest, because, even in their dreams, they see the war and their relatives and pray for a victory. "We are ready to die, but we want to live," she said of her family.

Another Ukrainian now living in San Diego said seeing so many people from her country together, trying to help each other, gives her power. Oksana Mushchenk has been in San Diego with her family for almost a year. She said she was finally starting to process some of the trauma that she has been through.

She appreciates the support Ukrainians have gotten from the United States. "American[s] and Ukraine have the same values," she said.

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