People gathered under a projection of the Ukrainian flag outside the Senate HouseElla Shattock

Hundreds gathered for a 6pm vigil at Senate House last night (03/3), in solidarity with all those affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

A Ukrainian flag was projected onto Senate House, and “#StandWithUkraine” was cast in white lettering on King’s College chapel. The chapel was also lit in yellow and blue to show support.

Students and university members stood draped in Ukrainian flags, while others wore blue and yellow clothing and ribbons. Some held cardboard signs reading “Welcome Ukrainian Refugees” and “No War”. A man at the front kept a single sunflower, the national flower of Ukraine, held above his head.

One student, who has spent the past week organising for the transport of bulletproof vests to Ukraine, told a group on King’s Parade that his grandmother is now safe in Poland. She apologised on the phone, he said, for being unable to knit him mittens this year. Her sewing kit was left behind in Kyiv.

Stephen Toope, the Vice Chancellor, gave some opening remarks at the vigil, signalling the University’s backing for the UN’s demands that Russia “immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine.” He also introduced two speakers, the Language Teaching Officer in Ukrainian, Andrii Smytsniuk, and Ukrainian Studies PhD student at Fitzwilliam College, Stepan Blinder.

Smytsniuk spoke first, emphasising the devastation, fear, and anger felt by “Ukrainians all over the world” about a war that “seems so far, far, far away, but yet is so close”.

He went on to admire the bravery of the citizens of Ukraine, saying: “They are risking getting killed, or are getting killed, at this very moment. And I am not there. I am here.”

“And, I don’t know, I look up at the sky, and there is nothing there. It is empty. I look around, and I don’t find myself in a bomb shelter. I wish I knew how my friends were feeling, but it’s impossible to understand.”

Smytsniuk closed his speech with a message concerning the Ukrainian President, former actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “As they say in former Soviet states,” he said, alluding to the power of political satire, “it wasn’t the Americans who made sure that the Soviet Union collapsed, […] those were the comedians.”


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“And luckily, there is a comedian in Kyiv, which I am very much hoping will protect Ukraine – but I don’t know.”

Next to speak was a Ukrainian PhD student, Stepan Blinder, who praised the University for its Ukrainian Studies programme which has been permanently established since 2010.

Blinder called this “something extraordinary”, saying that: “Cambridge is the university that provides people with an inclusive understanding of Eastern Europe.”

With this in mind, he called on the University to follow the example of other American and Western European academic institutions by opening up short and long-term research residences for established Ukrainian scholars.

After a time for silent contemplation, the evening ended around 7:15pm with a moving choral recording of “Prayer for Ukraine”, the patriotic hymn that is considered Ukraine’s spiritual anthem.

Cambridge University Ukrainian Society (CUUS) plans to hold a march on Saturday morning (05/03), walking from outside Sidgwick Site to Castle Mound in solidarity with the Ukrainian soldiers and civilians who are enduring and retaliating against Russia’s invasion.