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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Aggies gather in Rudder Plaza to support Ukraine

Trading out the traditional Texas A&M maroon and white for yellow and blue, Aggies and community supporters gathered in Rudder Plaza to share support for Ukraine after attacks from Russia.

Standing in a semi-circle around the stage in Rudder Plaza, supporters of Ukraine listened intently to those who wished to share stories and words of support. Beginning in February, Russia launched a war on the democratic country of Ukraine. As detailed in the email sent to A&M students on March 3, the protest was a way of “standing with the Ukrainian people to condemn Russian aggression.” Waving Ukrainian flags and handmade signs, approximately 150 people spent the afternoon on March 5 in Aggieland opposing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Holding up a sign that said “Back Off Putin. I stand with Ukraine,” Adrian Ortega, Class of 2014, said although he did not know anyone personally affected by Russia’s actions, he wanted to show his support for those affected.

“[We are protesting] the policies of Vladimir Putin,” Ortega said. “This goes deeper than simply people we care for, it is a matter of human rights and justice.” 

Ortega said he believes the Russian invasion of Ukraine represented a gross violation of Ukrainian rights and the Russian government must stop its attack and restore peace.

“Putin needs to stop his ambitions,” Ortega said. “This constitutes crimes against humanity.”

Being half Ukrainian and half Polish, community member Valeri Pougatchev said he felt torn between supporting Ukraine and condemning Russia. Pougatchev said he felt ashamed of the actions of one of the countries he called home. 

“Left side [of my body] is my heart, belongs to Ukraine, [the] right side to Russia,” Pougatchev said. “The right side … [feels] the shame.”

Pougatchev said patriotism is the act of holding your country responsible, for better or for worse. 

“Patriotism is feeling [ashamed of] your motherland country [for committing] terrible sins,” Pougatchev said. 

Originally from Poland, materials science and engineering associate professor Michael Demkowicz, Ph.D., has a personal connection to the cause of the protest, as he said he has a few friends residing in Ukraine.

“I am from Poland,” Demkowicz said. “We stand with Ukraine.”

Demkowicz said the reason behind coming to a physical protest was not only to express support, but also to show that people are willing to go beyond just verbal support.

“It is easy for us to just stay home and claim to support,” Demkowicz said. “Taking a small step shows that you are serious about [supporting Ukraine during the Russian invasion].”

Despite the supporters in Rudder Plaza today, mechatronics junior Nadiia Viitiuk said many people often state they do not want to get involved or that they have not picked a side to support. Although, Viitiuk said those who remain silent or claim they had not chosen a side were not neutral, only afraid. 

“You cannot stand partially with Russia and partially with Ukraine,” Viitiuk said. “Remaining quiet is not okay.”

Living in Ukraine in her early teens, Viitiuk said she still has friends living there and she hopes for their safety as well as commends their fight. With her personal ties, Viitiuk said she felt strongly about the war waged on her homeland.

“I am proud of [my friends] for making Molotov cocktails and standing by Ukraine,” Viiitiuk said. “F*** Russia.”

For information about how to help those in Ukraine, visit https://pokrova.org/ and https://unitedhelpukraine.org/

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