Ukrainian students host vigil for victims of Russian invasion


Logan Hodson

People gather around as others light up candles formed in the shape of the Ukrainian coat of arms on Thursday. The Ukrainian Student Association held the vigil to remember those who have passed due to the war in Ukraine.

By Willie Cui, News Editor

During a windy evening on Thursday, students and community members gathered on the Main Quad in front of the Illini Union around a ring of candles placed in the shape of the Ukrainian coat of arms. Surrounding the display and holding candles of their own, the attendees struggled against the wind to keep their candles alight, passing flickering flames between one another’s candles.

The vigil, organized by the Ukrainian Student Association registered student organization, is one of many held across different colleges across the country by various Ukrainian student groups as part of a “unified effort” to show solidarity with those resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Larysa Brandys, junior in LAS and president of the Ukrainian Student Association.

“We had a little over 20 (colleges),” Brandys said. “Some of them had to reschedule because of the rain, and some of them had to move locations. But most of them, I think, happened today.”

After singing the Ukrainian national anthem and observing a moment of silence, the crowd moved inside the Union, where Ukrainian students and a faculty member spoke about the Russian invasion. 

“My message today is very short and very sad: Russia is conducting a genocide against Ukrainians,” said Roman Ivashkiv, professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at the University. “I would never think that I would ever have to utter these words, and I will say it again. Russia is conducting a genocide against the Ukrainian nation.”

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Sophia Khudyk, sophomore in LAS and secretary of the Ukrainian Student Association, spoke about the atrocities committed against Ukrainian civilians in the town of Bucha, where “Russian troops completely withdrew” on March 30.

“With the streets now unoccupied, journalists have been able to come in and report on atrocities that happened there,” Khudyk said. “And one of the first things to come out were pictures of lifeless bodies out in the streets.”

Khudyk described dead Ukrainian civilians in Bucha who were killed by Russian forces, showing pictures of the grizzly scenes. 

“Some of the bodies laying there lay beside what appears to be an impact crater, others near abandoned cars. Three bodies lay beside bicycles,” Khudyk said, tearfully. “Some have their hands bound behind their backs with white cloth and were scattered for more than half a mile on Yablonska Street.”

Adrian Petrykiw, senior in LAS and membership chair for the Ukrainian Student Association, began his speech by playing what he called a “proof-of-life video,” which showed his cousin and his cousin’s battalion after being captured by Russian forces. 

“March 28, 2022, Russian forces captured my cousin and his battalion in the eastern region of Luhansk as they fight for Ukraine,” Petrykiw said. “He becomes a prisoner of war. His only hope — a prisoner exchange that may never come.”

A day later, Petrykiw’s father received and forwarded the video to him that showed his cousin and his cousin’s battalion identifying themselves “proving that they’re still alive,” Petrykiw explained. On March 30, his 22nd birthday, Petrykiw received a second video, which he also played. 

“It’s my cousin and his battalion again, luckily still alive — still breathing,” he said. “This time, they’re being forced to pledge allegiance to Russia. In the end, they yell ‘Ukraine under Russia.’”

Petrykiw described how the invasion affects him daily as an Ukrainian-American.

“I’d be lying to you if I told you that a single day has gone by since the invasion began that I have not wondered about my friends, my family and every single Ukrainian as they either fight or flee their homeland,” Petrykiw said.


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