Vigil against the war on Ukraine

Around 1,000 people attended a special vigil for Ukraine organised by the University of Cambridge on the evening of Thursday 3 March.

The event was held in front of the Senate House which was lit up in the blue and yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag. King’s College Chapel, next door, was also lit up.

The vigil was held one week after Russian forces invaded Ukraine and was attended by students, University staff and members of the public.

They heard speeches from the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, as well as from a Ukrainian academic and student.

Andrii Smytsniuk is a 27 year old lecturer in Ukrainian at the University’s Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics. He described how friends of his were putting their lives at risk by defending their country and how surreal it felt for him not to be in his homeland, but here in Cambridge. He went on:

"Where are we as a global community if, in the 21st century, after so many bloody wars, we’re still there?"
Andrii Smytsniuk

"Where are we going, what is happening, and why? I wish I had answers to those questions, but I don’t.”

The crowd also heard from Stepan Blinder, a PhD student with the Department of Slavonic Studies.  He described the invasion of Ukraine as the devastation of a glorious nation:

“Cambridge is the University which provides people with an inclusive understanding of Eastern Europe. It shows that Eastern Europe is not exclusively Russian. There are a lot of other countries that are Eastern Europe.”

He appealed to the University to consider opening short research programmes for Ukrainian scholars wanting to leave their country.

Oksana Hetman, who is studying for an MPhil, is President of the University’s Ukrainian Society of students. Her parents are currently sheltering with her grandmother in rural Ukraine:

“The service the University organised tonight is a nice way to highlight the support from the University and from the wider community towards our small Ukrainian community in Cambridge.”

The vigil ended with a rendition of the hymn, Prayer for Ukraine.

On Saturday 5th March there will be a March of Solidarity for Ukraine through the streets of Cambridge. Details can be found here: MARCH OF SOLIDARITY WITH UKRAINE

 Published 4 March 2022

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Photography: Lloyd Mann

For latest news from the University, resources for staff and students, and expert comment, visit: The war on Ukraine