Students wielding Ukrainian flags and posters marked with words of solidarity crowded O’Neill Plaza on Saturday afternoon to advocate for increased efforts to support Ukraine.
“This isn’t a fight just for Ukrainians, but for all people who believe in freedom,” said Betty Lo, a social justice advocate who works for Lumenor Consulting Group. “If Ukraine wins against its oppressor, we might all win against ours. If Ukraine wins against a dictator, all dictators will be put on notice.”
Lo was one of eight speakers, including Andrew Nynka, Matthew Howe, Viktoria Sadlovska Anshu, Dima Paznukhov, Oleksii Chuiev, at the rally. Several students also manned tables that provided information about local Ukrainian businesses to support and organizations that provide relief to Ukraine to donate to.
The first speaker was Chuiev, a Ukrainian soldier currently serving in Kyiv. He delivered his speech through a voice message sent to one of the rally’s organizers. Chuiev stressed the importance of staying informed about the crisis and working to support Ukraine.
“In my personal opinion, the greatest thing to help is to connect directly with trusted volunteers,” he said. “Search your network and your friends’ network to find people and ask them how you can help raise awareness about their work. Make a donation directly to local volunteers or smaller organizations that can help critical needs.”
Chuiev ended his speech with Ukraine’s national salute “Slava Ukraini.” Ahura Shadfar, one of the event organizers and MCAS ’24, explained that this salute translates to “Glory to
According to Shadfar, the Ukrainian conflict has serious geopolitical ramifications for the United States.
“These dictators that we see around the world threatening countries [are] going to lead to a more unsafe world,” he said. “Since we are the world’s sole superpower at this time, that’s going to get us involved in some capacity. … If this escalates even further, we could see actual Americans being threatened.”
Shadfar said that BC students should care about the conflict because it is symbolic of the world’s struggle for freedom and democracy.
“The things that we wake up to every day, the ability to even protest—this is something that, you know, in Russia, they’re not able to even [have] entertained at all,” Shadfar said.
Shadfar then introduced Howe, MCAS ’25. Howe said that he believes it’s the responsibility of citizens in a free and privileged country—like the United States—to speak out against the crisis in Ukraine.
“Too often we take for granted the small things that not everyone has,” he said. “I’m certain that most of you woke up today with working power and a roof over your head. You all likely left your home this morning without fear that they might not be the same when you return.”
Nynka, editor-in-chief of Ukrainian newspapers Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly, then shared his experience living in Ukraine as Russia invaded.
“As I was trying to process the news and understand what was happening, a wail of air raid sirens started in the air,” he said. “I spent much of that day hunkered down with family in their home in a high-rise apartment building where we had a good view over the city. We didn’t know how big the war would be at the time.”
Jack Villa, a rally attendee and MCAS ’25, said Nynka’s story resonated with him.
“Nynka lives in the U.S. but was just visiting Ukraine,” Villa said. “I could relate to him. I could feel his pain in his story. I could imagine the fear. It was the first time I ever heard someone share their experience in Ukraine in such detail. It was powerful.”
Villa said all of the speakers gave him a new perspective on the Russia-Ukraine Crisis.
“A lot of times when you hear about these global issues on the news, they feel distant,” Villa said. “Having this event makes it more personal and real. It makes you aware of the fact that these are real people with real families who are dealing with unimaginable tragedies and pain.”
According to Villa, he followed the conflict closely for a while, but was unsure of how to best support Ukraine.
“It’s really powerful to see everyone holding Ukrainian flags and signs of solidarity,” he said. “I’ve been following this on the news, and I thought it was important for me to come out and show my support. The tables have also been really informative in showing how I can continue my involvement.”
After all of the speakers finished, Shadfar and the other rally organizers led the attendees in a campus-wide march. Attendees chanted for Ukrainian freedom and peace, shouting “Stand with Ukraine” and “Stop the war in Ukraine” as they walked around campus.
Shadfar said that overall, the rally was successful and informative for attendees.
“It helped that we had a strong group of people committed to the cause at hand. That was key to getting this rally going.”
Nynka gave a final call to action to rally attendees as he closed his speech.
“Hold rallies, support various humanitarian causes and efforts, donate money, volunteer your time to help in any way you can,” he said. “There’s so much we can all do, and every little bit that you can do helps.”
Featured Image by Aneesa Wermers / Heights Staff