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Campus Shows Support for Ukraine

Rally brings together faculty, staff, students and family members united behind the people of Ukraine

Posted in: University

Woman and child hugging in amphitheater
Olena Nesteruk, associate professor in the Family Science and Human Development Department, hugs her daughter Laura. Laura’s grandparents and a lot of extended family are in Ukraine and others have fled.

Students, faculty, staff and families gathered at the campus Amphitheater last week to show their solidarity with the Ukrainian people and to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The rally was the idea of Associate Professor Jefferson Gatrall, coordinator of the Russian program. He invited members of the campus community who have ties to Ukraine to share their views. The rally concluded with the speakers taking turns speaking the names of Ukrainian cities that have been attacked or occupied by Russian forces since the invasion began, followed by a moment of silence.

Gatrall also taught the crowd to say “No to War” in Russian: “Niet Voine.”

“In Russia, those two words are banned in public,” he told the protesters. “If you say them or show them on a sign, you can be arrested and fined, fired from your job, expelled from university and even imprisoned.”

He also said of the Russian program: “We understand our mission not only as the teaching of the Russian language. We also study all the peoples in the post-Soviet sphere. That includes all the peoples that Russia has conquered, annexed, colonized, or mass deported over the past 400 years, as well as the history of the East Slavs dating to Kyivan Rus.”

Speakers included: Montclair alumna Lyudmyla (Milla) Yakubov, born and raised in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, and  director of the Ben Samuels Children’s Center; Halyna Hotsko, associate director of Capital Procurement, who is originally from Lviv, Ukraine; Viktor Turchyn, manager of the Computing Lab; student Liz Chernyshova, a psychology major and Russian minor; Ali Boak, director of the Global Center on Human Trafficking; and Olena Nesteruk, associate professor in the Department of the Family Science and Human Development.

Olena Nesteruk, who helped organize the rally, spoke to the crowd about her immediate and extended family in Ukraine – some of whom have fled and some of whom have stayed to fight in the Ukrainian army.

“Five members of my immediate family are among the internally displaced Ukrainians, including my brother and elderly parents who finally evacuated from Kyiv after weeks of daily shelling on the apartment buildings,” she said. “During those weeks, saying good-bye to my parents every day, not knowing if we would speak again, was terrifying.”

Despite the hardships, “They are lucky, compared to what we have recently learned happened to the Ukrainians who were under Russian occupation,” Nesteruk said, adding descriptions of scenes of destruction, mass graves and murdered civilians that have been shown on television and social media. “The world has seen images we wish to un-see.”

“The courageous resistance and bravery of Ukrainian military and civilians against the invaders deserve more support – humanitarian and military support. If Russia stops fighting, there will be no more war. If Ukraine stops fighting, there will be no more Ukraine.”

Photo Gallery

Man draped in ukranian flag hands small flag to another man.
Computing Lab Services Manager Victor Turchyn (wearing the Ukrainian flag), hands out flags at the rally and was also a speaker.
Man in white suit speaking into microphone
Associate Professor Jefferson Gatrall, coordinator of the Russian program, who brought the idea for a protest to Olena Nesteruk, was inspired by conversations with his students. He taught the crowd to say “Niet Voine” in Russian, which means “No to War.”
Woman speaking into microphone holding sign that reads 'no fly zone'
Halyna Hotsko, associate director of Capital Procurement, speaks at the rally. She is originally from Lviv, Ukraine, and her mother-in-law just recently arrived here, after fleeing the country.
attendees seated in the amphitheater
(Left to right): Lyudmyla Yakubov, director of the Ben Samuels Children’s Center, Olena Nesteruk, Nesteruk’s daughter, Laura, and Yakubov’s daughter, Camellia.
woman in amphitheater behind foreground of ukranian flags
Nicole Yakubov holds the Ukrainian flag at the rally.
Four women on stage speaking into the micrphone under ukranian flag
Caption: (Left to right): Jefferson Gatrall, Halyna Hotsko, Olena Nesteruk, Lyudmyla Yakubov, lead the rally.
Woman at microphone delivering a speech with cole hall belltowers in the background
Olena Nesteruk, associate professor of Family Science and Human Development, speaks at the rally about her family who have fled Ukraine and those who’ve stayed behind.
Woman in hat and sunglasses reading a sign in polish reading "społeczność polonijna: solidarna z naszymi sąsiadami"
Sophomore Zofia Przedworska, an Applied Mathematics and Statistics major, holds a sign written in Polish to show solidarity with Poland’s Ukrainian neighbors.(“Polish community: Solidarity with our neighbors”)
Woman speaking into microphone
Liz Chernyshova, a Psychology major and Russian minor, speaks to the crowd.
Woman speaking into micrphone with ukranian flag blowing in the breeze above her head
Lyudmyla Yakubov, the director of the Ben Samuels Children’s Center, who was born and raised in Ukraine, speaks at the the rally.
Woman speaking into microphone while holding a sign that reads "No Human Traficking"
Ali Boak, director of the Global Center on Human Trafficking, has decades of expereince helping survivors of human trafficiking worldwide including Eastern Europe.
Group of attendees and family members pose for photo with their signs
(Left to right, back row) Victor Turchyn, Jefferson Gatrall, Polina Chelnitsky, Olena Nesteruk, Nicole Yakubov. (left to right, front row): Halyna Hotsko, Laura Nesteruk, Camellia Yakubov, Lyudmyla Yakubov, Liz Chernyshova.

Photos by University Photographer Mike Peters.