Wearing the Ukrainian flag like a cape at the Bell Tower Thursday afternoon, Isaiah Kaplan held a sign with a picture of David Cherkasskiy, his friend in Ukraine who has taken up arms and started making bulletproof materials to defend his homeland against Russia’s invasion.
Kaplan collected donations through Venmo and Cashapp to send directly to Cherkasskiy as well as buy medical supplies, food and sleeping bags for him that will be sent to Poland’s border.
“He’s a regular civilian, he had the option to leave to go to Israel, to go to the U.S., but he’s defending his home,” said Kaplan, a junior political science and Russian major.
Kaplan was one of at least a hundred people who assembled for a peace gathering the university hosted in support of the Ukrainian community, amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The event was organized by the Dean of Students Office with help from Temple University’s Office of International Affairs and Hillel chapter, an organization for Jewish students.
With sporadic shouts of “Slava Ukraini” — glory to Ukraine — from the crowd and students passing by, speakers at the event included Temple administrators, Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American students and Student Body President Bradley Smutek, who all expressed support for the Ukrainian community. Students also sold pierogies and bracelets and used flyers with QR codes to raise money and provide resources for Ukrainians.
The rally began with a moment of silence directed by Chris Carey, senior associate dean of students, and was followed by speeches from Provost Gregory Mandel and Dean of Students Stephanie Ives. Mandel shared that his relatives emigrated from Ukraine to the United States.
Hai-Lung Dai, vice president for international affairs, shared his story about being an immigrant in the U.S. and how other countries should be able to experience the same individual liberties and freedoms the U.S. does.
“We’re fighting for freedom and peace for the world,” Dai said.
Yuliana Fartachuk joined four other Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American students in speaking about how the war has impacted them and their loved ones.
“These people who I grew up with are forging anger, hope and love into humanitarian artillery,” said Fartachuk, a freshman psychology major who immigrated to the U.S. with her family from Ukraine in 2013.
She was wearing a Ukrainian flag she bought in the country a couple of years ago. Until recently, the flag was just hanging on her wall, reminding her of her heritage.
“It was just hanging on my wall, reminding me where I came from and then I had to take it down and actually do something with it, unfortunately,” said Fartachuk to The Temple News after her speech.
Last week, Fartachuk spoke to the U.S. Congressional Ukraine Caucus about how the invasion has impacted her friends who live in Ukraine.
“People my age, who are not just trying to hide in their bunkers, but also to help in any way they can and risking their life during it as well,” Fartachuk said. “Why they are doing that? Because they don’t have any other choice.”
Smutek closed out the speeches by encouraging students to avoid misinformation about the war, seek assistance at Tuttleman Counseling Services if needed, stay connected with international student events and donate to credible organizations supporting Ukraine.
Some students attended the rally to support their Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American friends.
Jake Strong, a junior advertising major, Prem Ganesh, a junior bioengineering major and Aaron D’Mello, a junior finance and management information systems major, came to the event to support two of their friends who are Ukrainian.
“Everyone wants peace right now because the world is in such turmoil,” D’Mello said. “So, I think supporting this to promote peace in the world, especially here where we face so much difficulty and violence.”
Olya Zhugayevich, a junior environmental engineering major and a Ukrainian-American, was glad to see non-Ukrainian students attend the rally and missed the community feeling on campus that was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Seeing people here, it’s good post-COVID, it’s so good to see all that coming together,” Zhugayevich said.
Temple President Jason Wingard issued a statement on Feb. 25 expressing his support for Ukraine.
“This is a reminder that we are more than passive observers of history,” Wingard wrote. “This is a call to action to create a more understanding, peaceful and inclusive world.”
Other local universities have shown their support for Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans. The University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University marched with community members on Feb. 28 to show their solidarity with their campus’ and the city’s Ukrainian population, The Daily Pennsylvanian reported.
The United Nations estimates there have been 364 confirmed civilian deaths in Ukraine.