Sioux Falls Ukrainians and friends take part in ‘World’s Longest Marathon’

Sioux Falls Ukrainians and friends take part in ‘World’s Longest Marathon’
Published: Oct. 29, 2023 at 8:44 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Ukrainian people call the war for their country ‘The World’s Longest Marathon’, a nod to the endurance and strength of those who have fought for their country’s freedom since Russia’s invasion. On Sunday, Ukrainians honored their soldiers, doctors and volunteers of the war effort by creating their own marathon. One group in Sioux Falls joined runners around the globe to show unity and appreciation for those on the frontlines.

“Evil cannot win. It just can’t,” said one marathon participant in Sioux Falls, Iryna Schnieder.

“Sioux Falls cares and that’s huge for me and people in Ukraine,” explained another participant, Alla Kureninova.

Ukrainian flags and symbols lined the path at Pasley Park and up the Greenway Trail System as Ukrainians living in Sioux Falls and a few friends ran or walked while wearing plenty of blue and gold. Instead of randomly assigned numbers, their running bibs showcased important numbers and statistics from the war like 256 for the days that the city of Kherson was occupied, 3539 for how long Crimea has been under Russian occupation and 3750 for the length of the Ukrainian defense line in kilometers. For most Ukrainians currently living in the United States, they just want to do anything to help. Kureninova said that some even face survivor’s guilt.

“As I found out about the war and having the family back there, all I could think about was, ‘How come I’m here and somebody else is going through this?’ Especially if some of my family are my niece and nephew, so three and four-year-old kids,” Kureninova described. “Why do they have to go through it when I’m a grown-up and I get to run in this beautiful park? Other people have to go through that fear every day as they go out to get groceries for their families. They have that guilt of ‘Do I really belong here? Do I have to go back and be with the people and suffer with my people?’ ”

The marathon was one way to help them stay involved. What began as a fundraiser in Ukraine has turned into a global day of support and a sign of unity no matter where they are living.

“So many people are asking me what can we do and I just tell them ‘stay aware of what’s going on in Ukraine, but really in the world and really in your community and then you will know how to help,’” Kureninova said. “When the war started, I did want to do something, but raising awareness and staying aware is probably most important.”

“Ukraine is not just a country overseas,” Schnieder said. “There are many Ukrainians here and every family in Ukraine has been affected.”

Their hope is that those who saw them run will take time to think about and pray for their country, their home, the lives that were interrupted and the lives that were forever changed.

“It means the world,” said Schnieder. “Even five seconds that a person spends thinking or talking about Ukraine, it’s a huge support to those who fight, those who are first responders, doctors, volunteers in Ukraine keeping the country alive.”

While the fighting rages on in Ukraine, the Ukrainian people continue to raise awareness and spread hope. There is a strong sense that Ukraine will come out victorious in the end.

“That hope is every day,” Schnieder said with a smile. “Actually, 612 days is how long I’ve been calling my mom every single morning to check in, to make sure that they are alive, that they are okay. It is more than just hope. I am absolutely sure that every Ukrainian knows that Ukraine is going to win. It is more than just hope. It is faith.”