Thursday, June 30, 2022

MSU community shows support for Ukraine at 'Spartans Stand With Ukraine' rally

March 1, 2022
<p>Law student Andrew Haftkowycz speaks at the &quot;Spartans Stand With Ukraine,&quot; a protest at Dem Hall Field for peace in Ukraine on March 1, 2022.</p>

Law student Andrew Haftkowycz speaks at the "Spartans Stand With Ukraine," a protest at Dem Hall Field for peace in Ukraine on March 1, 2022.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Tuesday evening, dozens of demonstrators met at Demonstration Hall Field to show support for Ukraine at the “Spartans Stand With Ukraine” rally, organized by the MSU Ukranian Students Organization.

Ukrainian flags and handmade signs were held up throughout the crowd, blending into blue and yellow clothes meant to symbolize the Ukrainian national colors.

A line of speakers, most of who have direct ties to the country, took turns telling their stories and giving their perspective on the conflict.

After every speech, the chant “Slava Ukraini” was yelled out by the crowd — a phrase that translates to “Glory to Ukraine.”

Law student Andrew Haftkowycz told the story of his grandparents' escape from Ukraine 77 years ago, and emphasized the need to support all oppressed groups.

”We've seen this before,” Haftkowycz said. “In Yemen, Somalia, Palestine, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Korea, C.A.R., Syria. We are one with all oppressed people all over the world. ... We are one common people. We must stand as one common people.”

Senior Mason Harvath-Gerrans, who is studying Russian, began his speech by listing the names of families who had lost their homes during the Russian military's attack on the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Monday.

He said that these kinds of losses are found all over Ukraine.

“This is what happened in Kharkiv yesterday,” Harvath-Gerrans said. “This is what is happening all over Ukraine. This is a genocide against Ukrainian people, led by Putin, who has nothing but the worst wishes and says that we are not a people.”

Following Harvath-Gerran's speech, there was a moment of silence for those who died in the conflict thus far.

Ukrainian citizen and kinesiology junior Max Ostafllchuck told the crowd about the lessons he's learning from his uncle, who is currently serving on the frontlines of the conflict.

“He still smiles in pictures and cracks up jokes in his videos,” Ostafllchuk said. "I can learn from that as a person. And what I can say is that I think we should all be like that.”

He also commented on the will of the Ukrainian people. He described videos circulating online of the citizens throwing molotov cocktails at Russian tanks and removing mines from roads as “badass.”

“That just really shows the will of our people and how far we are going to go to save our own country,” Ostafllchuk said. “Because Russia is fighting for property and we are fighting for our independence. That’s the difference.”

Non-speakers had a variety of reasons for showing up to the event. Some, like world politics senior Anne Straith, said they simply wanted to show their support for Ukraine.

“I'm here because I believe in a free Ukraine, and I want to show my support,” Straith said. “I hope to connect with people who feel the same way that I do, and encourage other people to also support a free Ukraine.”

Others, such as political science-pre law sophomore Xavier Ahmed, said they were there out of a sense of duty for oppressed peoples.

“Any chance I get to stand with oppressed people, I'll always be with them,” Ahmed said.

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