That was the chant the Rev. Roman Melnik asked several dozen people gathered outside Kent City Hall to say in support of the people of Ukraine during a candlelight vigil Tuesday evening.
Melnik, pastor of Bread of Life Church in Kent, said that he understands the main message for pastors is to point people toward Jesus Christ. But he said it’s also a pastor’s responsibility to point out the sins of politicians when they do something wrong.
“We want to call out one politician who is doing something very, very terrible,” Melnik said about Russian President Vladimir Putin, who sent troops Feb. 24 into neighboring Ukraine in an effort to overtake the country. “He is the aggressor who is killing innocent people. We are not trying to be political, but we are pointing out a sinful action when the president of Russia is attacking innocent people. We are calling on him to stop and recall his army to return home.”
The crowd, which included a few people carrying Ukrainian flags and others dressed in the blue and yellow colors of the flag, echoed his cry.
Kent Mayor Dana Ralph worked with Ukrainian community leaders to organize the March 1 Unity for Ukraine vigil in support of the country in its war against Russia. She said more than 4,000 Ukrainian Americans live in Kent.
“It’s important to recognize that we understand the tragedy and terrifying acts of war happening as we speak and that we stand as a city in support and unity with our friends and neighbors,” Ralph said at the Kent City Council meeting that followed the vigil. “The city of Kent stands with the Ukrainian community and I encourage all residents of the city of Kent to join me in solidarity with the Ukrainian community here in Kent and abroad.”
Melnik was born in the Ukraine and moved to the Kent area with his family when he was 10 years old. He lives in Auburn and has been a pastor at Bread of Life Church for about 20 years. The church, 23435 104th Ave. SE, began in Kent 25 years ago.
Melnik told the crowd the whole world is telling Putin to stop, but that unfortunately he is not listening.
“But there are people listening and you are listening to the cry of the Ukrainian people and you are here to support them,” Melnik said. “And we are so thankful for that, to support them morally and in your prayers and financially. I ask you to pray with me to stop the war in Ukraine and protect the people as the war goes on.”
Melnik said during an interview after the vigil that he has a sister who still lives in Ukraine and he’s been in touch with her.
“Thank God they are OK,” Melnik said. “She is on the western side close to Poland. They have shot some missiles there, but they are safe for now.”
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, whose District 9 includes part of Kent, said during the vigil that people have stepped up to support Ukraine.
“It’s rare in the United States when we stop our petty partisan bickering and in-fighting and unite around one cause,” Dunn said. “That cause is standing in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.”
Dunn said the King County Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday to support the people of Ukraine and introduced legislation to send food and medical supplies to Poland to help Ukraine.
Melnik said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hit him deeply despite living most of his life in America.
“It made me think a whole lot about Ukraine,” he said during an interview. “I thought I was Americanized until this happened. I realized I am still very much attached to the country of Ukraine.”
That’s true of his congregation as well.
“Like many people, they are worried and praying,” he said. “There is not an Ukrainian here who does not have somebody back home. We are all praying and hoping for the best.”
Melnik looks forward to the war ending, if certain things happen.
“I think every day the Ukrainian army can resist and the people of Russia will become his (Putin’s) enemies and step up to his dictatorship,” Melnik said. “I’m confident the majority of Russian citizens do not support his war. They just don’t have a choice.
“I hope it’s going to end soon and I think it will because Putin is getting more and more enemies around the world and in his country.”
The pastor said support such as the candlelight vigil in Kent helps.
“It was amazing,” he said. “It was nice to see so many Ukrainian people and non-Ukrainian people, it means a lot. I think people in the Ukraine knowing this is happening will be a big support for them.”