Days after President Vladimir Putin’s military invasion, hundreds of New York University students, faculty and alumni on Monday gathered at the steps of Kimmel Center for University Life to recognize the innocent victims of the historic crisis in Ukraine.
“We condemn Putin’s words, actions and the attempt to question the right of statehood in Ukraine,” Ron Hall, Student Government Assembly Vice Chair, said in a speech at the event, echoing an earlier statement released on Friday.
The sentiment was shared widely by other speakers. Rafael Rodriguez, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, expressed “feelings of heaviness, disappointment and outrage” in light of a crisis, images of which have shown mothers cradling their children in a hospital basement in Kyiv and teachers enlisting themselves to protect their country.
At the event, students, faculty and alumni shared their shock and bewilderment as the fighting in Ukraine continues to escalate, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents fleeing to other European countries and ripping families apart as martial law requires fathers to stay behind.
“Speak up friends,” NYU Senior Finley Muratova said as they spoke about their 85-year old great aunt Nina who is gripped by fear of losing her life in Ukraine. “I don’t want anyone to lose their Ninas. And I really don’t want to lose mine.”
Maryna Prykhodko, a Ukrainian citizen and 2018 NYU graduate, tearfully read aloud a series of Instagram posts from another NYU graduate currently living in a bomb shelter in Ukraine.
Prykhodko shared her former classmate’s struggles over the last several days, including having limited access to the Internet, scrounging for scraps in the supermarket and taking iodine pills to protect her thyroid from radiation. She called on the NYU community to do more to support those living amid the chaos of war in her home country. “Words of support are not enough right now,” she said.
Even though New York City is more than 4,500 miles away from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, both Muratova and Prykhodko stressed that there were many ways NYU students could help from afar including protesting, donating money and asking government officials to support policies to end the ongoing violence.
Marcin Branowski, NYU class of 2023 and Chair of the North American Executive Board at Students for Liberty, bolstered the pleas for help, imploring the NYU community to use the strength of its rich, diverse community to support the Ukrainian people.
“We need to show Putin that the world stands with Ukraine,” he said. “If we don’t stand for them, then who will?”
Branowski then invited the crowd to participate in a common protest chant, one revived from the 1920s Ukrainian war of independence. “Slava Ukraini!” he cried out, which means “Glory to Ukraine.” The crowd replied with a booming “Heroiam Slava!” which translates to “Glory to the heroes.”
For some in the crowd, those were their first Ukrainian words ever spoken. All the same, their voices grew louder as Branowski repeated the chant again, and then a third time.
Minutes later, NYU Junior Anya Kosachevich stepped forward to sing the Ukrainian national anthem. Slowly, voices from within the crowd joined her, and a student raised the bright Ukrainian blue and yellow flag. Afterwards, for a brief moment, silence filtered through the crowd with a radiating sorrow. A collection of strangers brought together under a single cause – by a shared humanity.