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Small Crowd of Students Gather for Silent Vigil for Ukraine

Jacob Danielson | The PhoenixLoyola Students join together in silent vigil for Ukraine.

Around thirty Loyola students gathered outside in rainy weather between Mertz Hall and the Damen Student Center April 7 to participate in a silent vigil for the people of Ukraine. 

The event was led by members of both the Ukrainian Club and Ukraine Solidarity Network, two organizations that were recently formed earlier in the spring semester in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Masha Polupan led the students that had gathered in a nondenominational prayer spoken first in Ukrainian and then in English. 

Polupan, the first American-born Ukrainian in their family, became emotional during the vigil when they described the violence that has been occurring in the country and the feelings of powerlessness that Ukraine-Americans feel towards the conflict.

In an interview with the Phoenix, Polupan said their grandparents, who live in Kiev, recently were able to escape to Poland in a caravan after a missile struck the street they lived on. 

“My cousin and my aunt are still in Kiev,” said Polupan. “While the fighting has eased up near Kiev, the northern territories are still occupied, so it’s still really scary.” 

Polupan said they also know members of their extended family that have been fighting in the conflict since tensions flared between Russia and Ukraine in 2014. 

Throughout her speech, Polupan made many remarks about how the war in Ukraine has brought to light misconceptions about Eastern Europeans as well as many other global issues. 

“I believe that this is a pivotal moment to organize around immigration reform and other policy changes in the United States,” Populan said. 

Polupan also explained one of the most important ways for students to support Ukrainians is for them to become more knowledgeable about the conflict. 

“I would say a good place to start is to stop checking social media and stop relying on twitter threads and Instagram geographics,” Polupan said. “Pick up a few books on Eastern European history because I think it’s hard to understand the historical context with the perspective of being an American student.” 

Polupan recommended any students, regardless of their backgrounds, come to future fundraising events put on by the Ukrainian group. 

Other students who were in attendance shared similar statements about why it’s important for Loyola students to show support for the people of Ukraine. 

Lia Thibault, a sophomore majoring in both history and philosophy, said her close friend’s family served in the Ukrainian resistance in the 1980s, before moving to Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

“My friend’s aunt is currently the board president of a Ukrainian Orthodox Church and they are very active in the war effort,” Thibault said. “They are helping raise awareness, funds, and supplies for Ukrainian resistance fighters.” 

Thibault also said it is important for Americans to know that the war in Ukraine has important international effects.

“It’s necessary to recognize that this is actually a war, not just an invasion,” Thibault said. “We now should urge politicians and world powers to aid Ukraine in defending their democracy.” 

Chloe Rafferty, a freshman majoring in multimedia journalism, said being a member of Students for Justice in Palestine allowed her to realize the similarities between different oppressed groups around the globe. 

“It’s important for the Palestinian struggle for liberation to stand in solidarity alongside the Ukrainian struggle for liberation,” Rafferty said. 

Rafferty also said it is important for students at Loyola to show support for their fellow students. 

“It’s important for people to support Ukrainian students because they deserve to feel safe in our community,” Rafferty said. 

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