IT WAS a moment of defiance in the face of Russian propaganda, a way to fight back, but without firing a lethal round.

A hard-hitting reality for over 16s only, a silent vigil and exhibition of photographs in Alloa laid bare the horrors of the war in Ukraine.

As Putin paraded his soldiers and tanks in Moscow on May 9, people at the Wimpy Park came together in solidarity and to showcase the “horrific” war he started.

Among those organising and attending was a Clacks woman with a personal connection.

When one of her Ukrainian relatives joined the army, Maria Malcolm admitted to him how she felt “quite useless here in Scotland”.

In what she thought was a “lovely” and “quite funny” response from Oleh, she was advised to find some small work to keep herself busy.

And since then, the Play Alloa CEO and project manager has taken on the not-so-small job of co-ordinating volunteers and managing donations which flew in from across all corners of the Wee County.

“I found some small work, if you like”, she mused.

Maria, whose dad Orest was Ukrainian, opened up to the Advertiser on her proud roots and the effort to fight back, even from a distance.

The vigil and exhibition, held on what was Victory Day in Russia commemorating the fight against Nazi Germany, meant a lot to her.

Maria said: “It was an amazing thing to do, it felt really important to do something that day.

“We felt that we did something on that day that just said: 'look at the horror'.

“Look what Russia has done, it might be parading its soldiers and it might be parading its tanks, but look at the horror.”

Also organising was Karolina Juszczyck, who volunteers with the Wimpy Park Community Group and was among the first to get donations going.

“We wanted to show what brutality is, we were showing some pictures where you can see bodies and blood – it's real, it's what Ukrainians can see when they go to Bucha or other places like Mariupol”, she explained.

If the May 9 commemorations are a teaching in history, Karolina believes the true lessons have been forgotten today.

With the war's economic impact reverberating through multiple channels around the globe she highlighted that “we are all paying in different ways for that war”.

“We all should fight, we have other ways to fight, we don't have to fight physically or kill anybody, there's other things each of us can do, even if it's a little”, she added.

“They are fighting for our freedom too, if Ukrainians don't fight against it, you don't know how far Putin will go.”

For Maria, the Wee County effort which has seen many community groups collecting and donating, has been an “incredible process”, using both Ukrainian and Polish links to donate tonnes of items.

With Victory Day commemorating the end of WWII in Europe, she opened up on how her dad arrived to the UK, having been displaced by the very same conflict.

He would become one of the senior engineers in the technical development team at Longannet Power Station, but always longed to go back.

Maria said: “He was an incredibly clever man, a great guy who loved his country.

“He died just as Ukraine was getting its independence. We were trying to get a visa for him to go and he passed away so we put the visa in the coffin with him.”

Some of Maria's relatives are in Ivano-Frankivsk, in the west.

Others are in Kharkiv, while 30-year-old Oleh, when last heard from, was in Odessa.

Another of Maria's relatives serves as a paramedic who has “seen some horrific things”.

At Play Alloa, she has been working to organise a Sunday session for the families who are arriving to Clacks.

She remembers how important it was for her dad to attend the Ukrainian club in Edinburgh.

Maria added: “Personally, I'm just looking forward to getting something started so the kids can play with other Ukrainian kids and families can speak to other families and just retain a little bit of their Ukrainian-ness

“That's now my small job, my small work.

“And everyday, I keep my fingers crossed that our family are okay.”

People are being encouraged to help via the Clacks Ukraine Support page on Facebook where details on how to donate can be found.