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.”
Photos by University Photographer Mike Peters.