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Ukrainian independence celebrated in Parma as fighting continues in Eastern Europe

While it's been six months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, hundreds turned out to celebrate the 31st year of the nation's independence.

PARMA, Ohio — A day to celebrate independence became a reminder of how fragile independence is right now in Ukraine.

Hundreds lined the streets of Ukrainian Village in Parma on Saturday to honor the country's fighting spirit, now six months since the Russian invasion. Flags of blue and yellow dotted the streets of as hundreds gathered for a parade. 

This year, independence means even more to the nation of Ukraine as it continues to fend off an invasion from Russia that has resulted in millions displaced and cities leveled.

"We're all together today, we're all Ukrainians today," Ohio U.S. Sen. Rob Portman declared. "We're talking about the importance to stand behind Ukraine."

Portman led 60 groups as grand marshal because of his work as co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and providing humanitarian aid. Also there were U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Gov. Mike DeWine, the respective Democratic and Republican nominees in the state's Senate and gubernatorial races.

"The United States is absolutely obligated to help the warriors in the Ukraine," Ryan said, "and we need to continue to support the warriors there with as much technology, weapons, aid support as we possibly can muster," Rep. Ryan said.

"I wanted to be here," DeWine added. "I know congressmen, senators are here. It just says we support Ukraine, and what Putin doing is just an atrocity."

Indeed, people old, young, Ukrainian, American stood by each other today to commemorate their freedom. Portman, who is wrapping up his final term in office, couldn't help but get a little emotional.

"It's an honor," he said, fighting back tears. "You know, I've been to Ukraine seven times, [I'll] be back there soon and [have] a lot of Ukrainian friends. Today, I met a woman tomorrow whose son is in the Ukrainian Army, and I asked where he was, and she said he's on his way to Kherson. That's the city in southern Ukraine that they're trying to take back."

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