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Hundreds in Oxford protest Russian invasion of Ukraine

Hundreds of people from across Oxford turned out to protest the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The protest was held after Kyiv and other major cities spent another night under attack.

In response, the Oxford University Ukrainian Society organised a protest in solidarity with Ukraine. Several hundreds of protestors showed up in Radcliffe Square for the event, which commenced at 13:00 today. The majority of the crowd donned yellow and blue for the Ukrainian flag, with some protesters drawing parallels with the blue sky and yellow cotswold sandstone of the city.

A craft station was opened an hour before the protest was due to begin for attendants to create posters, in addition to receiving yellow-blue ribbons and face paint of the Ukrainian flag. Members of the Oxford University Ukrainian Society sewed a dozen Ukrainian flags the night before the protest as many shops had run out of stock. 

Alongside Ukrainian flags, protesters waved flags from across Europe, especially Eastern Europe. One protester waved the red and white flag used by pro-democracy activists in Belarus, the country from which the invasion force was launched from the north.

The red and white flag used by the Belarusian opposition. Credit: Charlie Hancock

Kateryna Marina, President of the Oxford University Ukrainian Society, helped arrange the protest. She told Cherwell that the support the Ukrainian Community had received in Oxford had been “incredible”. “We organised our Thursday protest in a matter of two hours and had about a hundred people turned up.”

On the situation in Ukraine, she said “To be honest at this point it doesn’t really matter how I feel about the situation personally, it’s what we can do to help Ukraine and help our loved ones there.

“This is a gross violation of international law and human rights. I am honestly speechless about how somebody decided that they could be doing this and how they can go just completely without any repercussions. Everything that’s been done, not even in the past couple of days or weeks or months, but since 2014 in Ukraine is just horrific, and I cannot wrap my mind around it”

Oleh Stupak, a final year DPhil student reading for cybersecurity, said that his feelings at the moment, as a Ukrainian, were very mixed: “I’m from Kyiv, and part of my family is still in Kyiv. Some of them fled to the West, but some of them stayed together, fighting.” 

“On the one side, […] I feel lucky that I didn’t wake up at 3am a couple days ago from a bomb shell, but rather from a phone call. It’s probably a very different experience – I don’t know what my family felt when something had just blown up basically above their roof, so I don’t know exactly what I feel.”

One protestor, Ben Jackson, was there with his two daughters. Jackson told Cherwell he was there “to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” and “to defend the sovereign democratic rights of the Ukrainian people to govern themselves as they want to be governed.” He discussed the difficulty of explaining the invasion to his young children at home: “their mother is from Poland, […] so they’ve talked a lot about it at home, about the fact that it is happening close to Poland, and that it is an act of aggression that the Russians are undertaking.” While he did not want to share the details with his children, he wanted to “paint the broad strokes” of what is happening in Ukraine. 

Another member of the crowd, Beatrice Pinati, told Cherwell that she has “great concern for what is happening in Ukraine, and [has] great respect for the Russian citizens who are protesting. […] I’m here both for the Ukrainians, and also people I know in Russia, who do not like this war and do not have much opportunity of making their voice heard.” 

Speakers included the leader of Oxford City Council Susan Brown, who also spoke on behalf of the Member of Parliament for Oxford East, Annalise Dodds. Students who spoke included the President of the Oxford University Czech and Slovak Society.

The protest concluded with the singing of the Ukrainian National Anthem, known in English as ‘Glory and Freedom of Ukraine has not yet Perished.’ The words to the anthem were distributed throughout the crowd, with the lyrics written in Ukrainian, phonetic English, and as translated into English. The lyric sheet also contained links to donate to the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, the National Bank of Ukraine, and various other charities. 

One of the speakers, Sasha Mills, a student at St Hugh’s who grew up visiting family in Kyiv, has spent the past few days organising a fundraising drive for the British Red Cross’ Ukraine Crisis Appeal. She is also encouraging JCRs to pass an emergency action motion to publicly express support for Ukrainians and members of the European Diaspora by flying the Ukrainian flag and donating to the appeal.

Sasha Mills told Cherwell: “I’m really hoping to see traction with the motion in the next few days, and we’ve seen amazing support already. The motion and fundraiser is designed to make it easy for JCRs and MCRs to contribute to humanitarian aid, and for colleges to show solidarity with those affected by the crisis. If your college isn’t in the process of passing the motion already, this is your chance to get involved!”

Featured Image Credit: Charlie Hancock

This article was updated at 19:07 on 27/2/22 to clarify that Annalise Dodds did not speak. Councillor Susan Brown spoke on her behalf.

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