Holding signs, waving flags, writing slogans in chalk on the ground and playing the Ukrainian national anthem from the speakers of a car, supporters gathered on Ho Plaza at noon on Wednesday in solidarity with Ukraine for the second time since Russian military forces began their invasion of the country on Feb. 24.
Leina Peterson ’22, an engineering student from Moscow with family still in Russia, helped organize the second rally. Peterson said she hadn’t heard about the first protest until it had already occurred, and she was motivated to launch the second rally by her Ukrainian friends’ and her own desire to bring attention to the crisis. Like others at the Feb. 26 protest, Peterson expressed disappointment with the University’s lack of acknowledgement of the invasion.
“The University wasn’t issuing any statements on the crisis, and I personally felt very little support from the University,” Peterson said. “I feel like my friends who are from Ukraine [and] adjacent nations have also felt very little support from the University, and it didn’t seem like anything was being done to show the Ukrainian students that the University supports them.”
President Martha Pollack later issued a statement on the day of the second protest condemning the invasion and offering support to Russian and Ukrainian students, pledging to push for protections and work permits for Ukrainian students as a member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration.
Additionally, Senior Associate Dean Michelle Smith and Director of Advising Ray Kim sent an email to students in the College of Arts and Sciences around 3 p.m., encouraging students to utilize the University’s advising and mental health resources to preserve their mental health during the conflict.
For some attendees, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had political significance in addition to the human tragedy wrought by the violence.
Kinen Kao ’22, a student from Hong Kong who has a history of activism protesting the Chinese government, drew parallels between Russia’s incursions on Ukraine and the People’s Republic of China’s relationship with Hong Kong.
“I’m from Hong Kong. I’m here to stand for Ukraine firstly as a human, and also as a Hong Konger. I believe that both Hong Kong and Ukraine are standing on the same front line against [the] expansion of totalitarianism,” Kao said. “And so I hope to stand up for Ukraine, and to stand against all the dictators of the world, and together, I believe we will triumph and freedom will prevail.”
Flyers bearing slogans expressing support for Ukraine on behalf of Hong Kong can be found around campus.
For Olga Zimina, a visiting scholar from Ukraine, the results of the invasion are especially concrete.
“My family is right now in Kyiv, and they are safe,” Zimina said. “They are hiding from time to time in a shelter in underground parking. I really worry about them because they’re in danger [of being] killed or injured. I hope most people know about the war and push more government officials to put more sanctions on Russia.”
Zimina expressed appreciation for the aid the US and many European countries have given to the Ukrainians, but she stated her hopes that more sanctions can put further pressure on Russia to end the war.
“[The aid is] not enough,” Zimina said. “We will do everything to resist and defend our land.”