Students and faculty gathered in the Student Union Plaza to pay tribute to the many lives lost in Ukraine.
By Natalie Metcalf, Staff Writer
Candles of hope glistened in Valley College’s Student Union Plaza on a peaceful night, as Monarchs silently recognized the 925 lives lost in the Ukrainian and Russian war.
The Associated Student Union hosted a Ukraine Solidarity Vigil on Thursday, as 33 supporters commemorated the numerous lives lost in the war in Eastern Europe. The floor was open to students, faculty and the Valley Glen community. While some supporters wore t-shirts with the Ukrainian flag, others showed solidarity by carrying protest signs stating messages of support, such as “Ukraine defends world values” and “Putin-terrorist number one, stop genocide.” Students and faculty showed their support by lighting and passing out candles to represent hope during the somber affair. At the beginning of the event, attendees gathered in a circle and observed a moment of silence.
“Ten years ago no one knew where Ukraine was – they thought it was a part of Russia,” said first year student and graphic design major, Daria Bohush. “Now everyone knows where Ukraine is. Everyone supports our people. Everyone is on our side.”
The graphic design major was born and raised in Ukraine and has lived in the U.S. for seven years. Bohush’s family lives in Ukraine and she talks to them every day.
Monarchs hoped that Russian citizens would “see the truth.” Free speech in Russia has been in jeopardy, while propaganda dominates news outlets. Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law prohibiting any unfavorable news coverage regarding the government's actions in Ukraine, going so far as to outlaw the use of the word war when describing the invasion.
ASU Commissioner of Political Affairs Kai Halland led the vigil and introduced guest speaker and political theory professor Farrel Broslawsky.
“Whenever there is a social movement of any kind, it doesn’t come from leadership,” said Broslawsky. “Things like freedom and decency in a just world start from the bottom and move up.”
The political theory professor compared ASU’s proactiveness and support of Ukraine to Valley’s previous effort during the Vietnam War.
“I can remember back when the movement to oppose the war in Vietnam started right here at Valley College,” said Broslawsky. “It was the first such movement to deal with the war and to question the authority that promoted that war.”
As of yesterday, 925 civilians have died – 75 of them children – and 1,496 people have been injured. The UN estimates almost 3 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Putin’s invasion on Feb. 24. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Congress on March 16, imploring U.S. Senators to sanction a no-fly zone over Ukraine. As previously reported by the Star, a protest in Hollywood demanded for NATO to “shield the sky” from Putin.
“It’s hard for me to go to classes. I thought it was a joke, honestly. I couldn’t believe my own eyes,” said Kristin Yegoyan, who is a Ukrainian honor’s student at Valley.
Valley wants to help fight the information war by combating Russian propaganda. Pamphlets suggested posting opposition to the war and civilian death tolls through google review or social media pages to businesses in Russia. The pamphlets also contained nonprofits such as UN Crisis Relief, UNHCR refugee agency, International Rescue committee and International Committee of the Red Cross as options to donate.
“To me, the candlelight represents truth, hope and love,” said President Barry Gribbons. “I deeply appreciate everyone coming together for all the people in Ukraine. I think that it is important to come together as a campus community and show our solidarity for Ukraine. I hope that they have peace.”