First published in the March 18th print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
By Andy Lippman
Three generations of the Lytton family agreed they had to do something with their feelings about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
So, grandfather, Al, 84, father, Dennis, 48, and son Ty, carried American and Ukrainian flags to a rally on Sunday in support of Ukraine at the intersection of Fair Oaks Avenue and Mission Street.
Al Lytton journeyed all the way from Huntington Beach to support the cause.
They joined several dozen people at the intersection, which has frequently been the site of a variety of demonstrations in recent years.
“My dad asked me if I wanted to come and I did,” Ty Lytton said.
“It’s important to support Ukraine and oppose Russia,” added Dennis Lytton, who lives in Hollywood and attends St. James’ Episcopal Church in South Pasadena. “We talked about this — father and son — and it’s upsetting to him and to me. We had to do something to show our support and to oppose Russia.”
People honked their car horns as they drove past people in the crowd as they carried signs with messages including “South Pasadena Stands with Ukraine.” Some people came with blue and yellow Ukrainian flags draped over their shoulders, while one woman waived a bouquet of yellow flowers.
The peaceful crowd rejoiced at the salutes from passersby. Friends compared stories about relatives and friends who were being affected. They, like the Lyttons, wanted to show their solidarity for the cause. Children and teenagers joined their parents, while some came by themselves.
“I don’t think this can stop the war, but maybe it will cause people to remember what is going on,” said Sasha Tsapin, who is originally from Moscow and now lives in Pasadena. “It’s difficult for me to sleep. It makes my heart ache. It’s terrible.”
The rally on Sunday was organized by Andrew Berk, who is president of the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, with input and help from Pastor Sam Park, of ReNew United Methodist Church in South Pasadena, along with South Pasadena residents Marina Khrustaleva and Eugenia Horosheva, who are both originally from Russia, but who are both opposed to what is going on in Ukraine.
An earlier separate prayer ceremony was attended by several South Pasadena faith organizations on Thursday in front of the South Pasadena Public Library.
“Since the events unfolded during the last three weeks, I felt compelled to reach out and find not only my own family’s history, but others in the community who had been affected by this horrific unprovoked tragedy,” said Berk, whose family paid for a stay at an Airbnb in Ukraine that they knew they would not use, but the funds would support the owners.
“It was so incredible to see so many people of so many faiths, ethnicities and other geographic communities come to our little pocket of South Pasadena and show support to help raise awareness and to encourage others to stand up, speak up and give to any of their preferred organizations that can help those most affected,” he added.
Khrustaleva said her relatives are still in harm’s way in eastern Ukraine. Yulia Meltser and her sister Lena, both from Russia, said they had to come out in protest of what is going on in Ukraine.
“It is a horror that came true,” Meltser said. “It is horrific.”
Meltser, who lives in South Pasadena, said she is still in contact with her friends and relatives in Russia, who told her they don’t have money, their credit cards don’t work any longer and prices are rising.
“The future has been stolen from them,” she said.
She said that despite sending him stories about what is going on, her father refuses to believe them, relying rather on state media.
“He thinks what I send is fake news … This is going to separate families,” said Meltser, who said some of her family and friends want to go to Israel because they are Jewish. Meltser said that she has dual citizenship, but acknowledged that Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to discontinue such arrangements.
“I don’t know if I will ever see my relatives anymore,” she said.
Olga Shapovelova has lived in South Pasadena since 2000 and is originally from Moscow. She said that her family is “half and half,” with some living in Russia and others in Ukraine.
She is texting two cousins who are living in a village near Kharkov in Ukraine, which is currently being besieged by the Russians.
“There are 11 people and, when there is bombing, they go to the basement and, when there is quiet, they can go up to their house,” she said. “There are four kids and one person, elderly, with disabilities.”