A crowd of Tufts students, alumni and community members gathered at the Mayer Campus Center on Wednesday to show their support for the people of Ukraine.
The rally at Tufts comes one week after Russia launched a full-scale military attack on Ukraine on Feb. 23. The war, now on its eighth day, has so far been marked by Russian airstrikes on civilian targets and troop movements toward the capital, Kyiv. Many Ukrainians are trying to flee the country, while others have enlisted in the military and are prepared to stay and fight.
Draped in a Ukrainian flag, Artem Dinh, a junior who is Ukrainian and Vietnamese, led the crowd in chants of “We stand with Ukraine!” and “Stop the war!” Dinh said he woke up Wednesday morning to texts from his friends in Ukraine that there had been an air raid on his city of Berdychiv. He urged the crowd to empathize with young people in Ukraine.
“[Ukraine is] a democratic and free country,” Dinh said. “Same ideal, same people like us [who are] studying computer science, studying psychology, studying medicine. … We as a free and democratic country should care about this.”
The rally was organized by Dinh, Dzheveira Karimova, Kevin Pham, Declan Landau and Ariel Kayton, all Tufts students, with help from the Offices of Public Affairs, Campus Life and Student Affairs, the University Chaplaincy and Ukrainians at Tufts and in the Greater Boston area. The organizers created a website where they compiled educational resources about the war, suggestions of Ukrainian nonprofits to donate to and other opportunities to show support for Ukrainians.
Eulasha Tisnovsky, a first-year from Ukraine, urged everyone gathered at the Campus Center to sign petitions, stay informed and make donations in support of the country.
“What’s happening in Ukraine is way worse than you guys think … It’s not an invasion, or a conflict — it’s war,” Tisnonvsky told the crowd. “Yesterday at about 5 p.m., which is about midnight in Ukraine, planes were dropping bombs over Kyiv, which is where my whole extended family lives. My two cousins, 14 and 17. My uncle and my grandma. They dropped so close to my uncle’s house that he called my mom to say goodbye, because he thought he wasn’t gonna make it.”
Valeriia Kuzmuk, a Ukrainian student at Berklee College of Music, sang the Ukrainian national anthem at the rally and encouraged the crowd to join in or hum along. Later, Kuzmuk explained that the anthem is about survival and resistance.
“When you listen to our anthem and you read the lyrics, you have to understand the story and the history of Ukraine and how most of the time that it’s existed, it’s been surviving,” Kuzmuk told the Daily. “But you also have to understand that by now we’re so used to it that … there’s literally nothing that can scare us.”
Landau, a junior who helped organize the rally, hopes it will put pressure on the university administration to make a show of support to Ukrainian students.
“A lot of universities — even Harvard, who has made a really milquetoast statement — have said something … offered some support to their students,” Landau told the Daily. “We have a lot of Russian and Kazakh and Ukrainian students and they said nothing … so we want them to make a statement. And we want them to offer support to our Ukrainian students in whatever way they can.”
Many Tufts students who don’t have direct connections to Ukraine showed up to the rally in solidarity.
“It’s really easy, being in America, to not pay attention … but I think it’s really important that we continue to educate ourselves,” Rebecca Moriarty, a first-year who attended the rally, said.
The crowd marched from the Campus Center to University President Anthony Monaco’s residence, Gifford House, where Dinh led a call-and-response chant of “Tufts, speak up!” and “Act now!”
“Alright Tony Monaco, we hope you heard us,” Dinh said as the chanting subsided.