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Oxford-Ukraine Peace Rally shows university’s continued resistance of Putin’s war

Hundreds gathered in Radcliffe Square this afternoon for the Oxford-Ukraine Peace Rally, marking one year since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The rally included an hour of testimonies from Ukrainian scholars, local authorities, and university staff, stamped by rallying chants of ‘Slava Ukraini!’ (glory to Ukraine).

Organised by the Oxford University Ukrainian Society (OUUS), the rally had an abundance of support from cross the university. The Radcliffe Camera’s railings were coated with memorial plaques organised by Feminist Anti-War Resistance for those who have lost their lives during the invasion. 

The rally began with Ukraine’s national anthem followed by Chancellor Patten’s address read by OUUS VP, Tomas Tokovyl. The centre of the rally was the University’s role in supporting Ukranian refugees and as was made clear in Patten’s speech, “Oxford stands with Ukraine very strongly”. Those united against the invasion heard from the Ukranian Graduate Scholarship Founder, Lionel Tarassenko, who reasserted Oxford’s action in supporting Ukranian students.

The graduate scholarship has successfully enabled 26 Masters programmes and will continue with 18 scholarships next year, on which Cherwell reported in January. One scholar told Cherwell that she had found out about the Oxford scholarship on LinkedIn. With over 900 applications to the scheme, it is clear that the scholarship, and others like it, show that universities are central to efforts to oppose Putin’s advances. The scholar underlined, however, that action in support of Ukraine must not end; her mother is still living in war-torn Lviv and millions of others remain in similar situations.

The University of Oxford has played a significant role in providing educational support for Ukraine. Working in close partnership with Kharkiv University, the efforts to support Ukranian refugees comes from a collective intellectual resistance to Putin’s terrorism. Weidenfeld-Hoffmann scholar, Denys Karlovsky spoke about the continuation of education in the early stages of the invasion last year commending those who worked on doctoral theses in bunkers and professors who taught over Zoom. The support offered by the university has been invaluable to many though, as Tarassenko highlighted, there is always more to be done to help Ukranian refugees and to show that “Oxford stands in solidarity” with them. 

Oxfordshire’s local authorities also attended. It is the fourth highest local authority in the UK in the extent of its effort to aid Ukrainian refugees. Out of the 200,000 Homes for Ukraine offered by the UK, over 2000 were in Oxford including those of University staff. Lord Mayor James Fry also spoke of completely severing ties with Russian twin city, Perm. Oxford hopes, instead, to work more closely with the Ukrainian university town, Kharkiv; the Oxford Kharvkiv Association has now fully formed following the Mayor of Kharkiv’s address to Oxford City Council.

As the rally ended, activists and scholars held up signs of Ukranian blue and yellow, colours symbolising freedom and democracy. The afternoon acknowledged the tragedy and horror of the crimes against humanity committed by Putin’s regime but also celebrated the power of united intellectual resistance. Closing his address, Karlovsky said that with hope and action we will soon be chanting “the war is over and Ukraine is standing free!” 

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