“Slava Ukraini!” rally at MSU statue aids Ukrainians, seeks donations

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“Slava Ukraini! Heroyam slava.” A chant for the Ukrainian people that stems back to the Ukraine war of Independence over a century ago has become synonymous with Ukraine’s pride. It means “Glory to Ukraine – Glory to the heroes.”

Students stand with Ukrainian flags and posters.

Claire Grant

Hundreds gathered near the Sparty statue at Michigan State University for a rally organized by the Ukrainian Students Association.

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continued to stagger the world, East Lansing residents supported Ukrainians Monday. 

Russian President “Vladimir Putin ignited a war against democracy. It was war against people who decide to settle their differences in a room as opposed to in a tank – with representatives as opposed to with bombs,” said law student Andrew Haftkowycz.

“My heart is shattered, my soul is strong, and my mind has been tested.”

Andrew Haftkowycz

On Feb. 24, Russia proclaimed two sovereign Russian states in Ukraine and began sending military forces into the region. Days later, the advance escalated as a deep push into the Ukraine heartland and a full-on invasion. From Istanbul to Mexico City, signs with blotchy black ink saying ‘STOP THE WAR’ are taped to doors of Russian embassies.on Monday afternoon students at Michigan State University  collected under the Spartan statue to rally support for the Ukrainian people. The rally was set up by MSU’s Ukrainian Student Organization.

College student outdoors with Ukrainian flag

Claire Grant

Students and other from the Ukrainian community and beyond gathered near Michigan State University’s iconic spartan statue.

Associate professor Matthew Pauly said, “I’d like to speak as a history professor about the craft of history. For me to do my job – I need to go to Ukraine and rely on the help of Ukrainians –  Ukrainian historians, Ukrainian librarians, Ukrainian archivists – all of whom are in peril today. I ask that we remember in this university community – those people are like us, they’re like me, they’re like you. I had a professor write me yesterday that he’d learned some of his students were killed in battle. Can you imagine what that is like? I struggle to imagine, I struggle to imagine my world coming crashing down on me.”

Ukraine has been an independent country since Aug. 24, 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, yet Putin, does not recognize Ukraine as a country. He maintains that the invasion is to simply bring these sovereign states into alignment with Russia. Many of the hundreds at the rally were of Ukrainian descent. Haftkowycz chanted “Glory to Ukraine. Glory to the heroes” in Ukrainian and bolstered the community that had come out to support the gathering.

Kinesiology junior Max Ostafiichuk said, “I am currently living here in America with my mom and my aunt, but the rest of my family is in Ukraine, and they are in great danger. Our people are extremely, extremely strong … the kind of support we have from our own civilians over the Russian Federation is immense.”

Ukranian students rally

Claire Grant

Flags, signs, chants and speeches supported Ukrainia’s defenders.

In response to the invasion, trade has come to a halt due to sanctions placed on Russia by The European Union, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The U.S. has put restrictions on more than 80% of Russia’s economic system, air travel and sanctioned on Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin.

Ukrainian Student Organization Vice President Lucas Lisowsky said he does not believe sanctions are a viable long-term solution.

“I don’t believe it. I don’t think most people do … like (Haftkowycz) was saying, it seems like Putin is almost trying to rebuild the Russian Empire and that starts with Ukraine.” Lisowsky said, “there’s plenty of other countries that are now independent of Russia … they’re right there. I’m sure Putin would love to take them, too.”

Mason Harvarth-Gerrans, history chair of the Ukrainian Student Organization, spoke about the front at the Russian border. He spoke in Ukrainian and English.

“Yesterday, there was the most heinous attack launched by Russian forces against the city of Kharkic,” Harvarth-Gerrans said. ”They launched the attack against 87 residential (buildings) … Putin, has nothing but the worst wishes – and says that we are not a people.”

At the end of the rally, signs and flags were held aloft in the cool March air as a QR code was passed around that linked to the donations site, RanzomForUkraine.org for supporters  to donate.

As the demonstration came to an end, Haftkowycz held aloft his speakerphone one last time to carry the crowd in a chant, to which they responded, “Heroyam slava!” “Glory to the heroes.”

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