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Students rally for Ukraine

Katie Bradham

Supporters wore yellow and blue and carried signs to show their support for Ukraine.

As events have unfolded between Russia and Ukraine, Clemson students and community members held a rally on Bowman Field on Sunday, March 6 in support of Ukrainian independence. The rally featured several speakers and drew a crowd of a few hundred people to show their support for the people of Ukraine.  

Hayden Laye, a junior at Walhalla High School, helped to organize the event.  

“There is a sizable Ukrainian population here in the Upstate of South Carolina, and a lot of their families are still over in Ukraine facing this invasion,” said Laye. 

The rally brought people from Clemson’s surrounding area including Donna Martin of Seneca, who has spent some time in Ukraine. 

“I have traveled to Ukraine three times on humanitarian trips, mission trips, so it’s personal to me. The cities being mentioned on the news are places I’ve been to,” said Martin. 

She went on to share that she has several friends in Ukraine and is gathering a lot of information from their accounts. “Most of the people that I have interacted with in Ukraine are [still] there. They are staying and defending their homes,” said Martin.  

One person who Martin has stayed in contact with is traveling back and forth between Poland and Norway, gathering supplies and bringing them back to their home city in Ukraine.  

 Unlike Martin, many people in attendance had no close ties to Ukraine but were still eager to share their support for the Ukrainian people.  

“We just wanted to come out and show our support against tyranny,” said Bridgett Hendricks of Tamassee. Another attendee, Eunice Lehmacher, said, “I’m for peace. I believe in peace and not war.” 

Heather Motro, a sophomore environmental and natural resources major, said, “I felt like I’d been reading the news to keep up with the war and feeling really helpless and wanting to do something. What do you do when there is so much distance between you? I came to learn more here and how I can help.” 

The bells in the Old Main played a Ukrainian hymn while Lyudmyla Tsykalova, a native Ukrainian, addressed the crowd and shared what the past few days have been like for her. “About 12 days ago the Russian president declared that my country is not supposed to exist and invaded… They are destroying infrastructures, attacking civilian houses, and children’s hospitals,” said Tsykalova. 

She went on to address the Russian troops attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant saying, “the Russian troops were the first in the history to attack a nuclear power plant, the biggest nuclear plant in Europe,” adding, “[This] is an assault not only on Ukraine, it is an assault on the whole world.” 

If being a Ukrainian was not enough to tie Tsykalova to the events in her country, the fact that her father was still in Kyiv in the days after the Russian invasion was. 

“In the last week my mornings started with a phone call to check that my father made it through the night, and sometimes he didn’t answer right away, and those minutes were so long, so empty, so scary,” said Tsykalova. 

She shared that her father had spent many nights sleeping in the corridor of his home because it was the only place that did not have windows, making it the “safest” place in the house. “I tried to convince him to leave before the war started, but he didn’t want to. He had too much to leave behind, his whole life,” said Tsykalova 

Tsykalova went on to say that each phone call was spent focusing on things that would not upset them. She would talk about the flowers growing and talk about her father’s grandchildren instead.  

“Each call ended with I love you because we knew that could be the last call that we had,” she said. 

After keeping the crowd in suspense, Tsykalova shared that her father had started his trip towards the European Union. “My parents had to spend one night on a train station and one night on the border, but very early [Sunday] morning they managed to cross the border finally [into Poland].”  

There are approximately 44 million people who live in Ukraine, but the fact that her parents had made it to relative safety brought Tsykalovaa sense of overwhelming relief.  

In the week prior to this event Clemson University shared a statement on Thursday, March 3 regarding the ongoing crisis in Europe saying, Many of you [students] have watched with deep concern and dismay the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The University is reaching out to members of our community who have known ties to Ukraine. During this difficult time, we reaffirm those things that make our community strong, especially our respect and support for each other.”  

The University stopped short of denouncing the actions taken by the Russians and pledging their support of the Ukrainian cause.  

“My people are going to fight to the end.”

The Ukrainians have shown the world their strength and their willingness to stand up for what is right, and the next few weeks will be crucial for the Ukrainian people. Tsykalova summed up the will of her people by saying, “my people are going to fight to the end.” 

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Katie Bradham
Katie Bradham, Senior Videographer
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