Candlelight vigil held for victims of Russian invasion in Ukraine 

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The UConn sign is lit up in the colors of Ukraine’s flag at night on March 8, 2022 at the University of Connecticut Storrs campus. Photo by Brandon Barzola/The Daily Campus.

At 7:00 p.m. on April 7, the Ukrainian Student Association (USA) at the University of Connecticut held a vigil in the chemistry building for the lives of Ukrainians lost as a result of Russia’s invasion of the country. 

Christine Sharabun, an eighth-semester chemical engineering major and vice president of the USA, opened the vigil discussing the creation of a nationwide organization of Ukrainian student groups, called the Ukrainian Student Union of America.  

“As of April 1, estimates have put 1250 civilians, including 160 children, as dead from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. President Zelenskyy estimated on March 13 that 1300 Ukrainian servicemen and servicewomen have died, considered perhaps the lowest possible number,” Sharabun said in a speech at the vigil. 

Dr. Leo Wolanksy, professor and chair of diagnostic imaging and therapeutics at the UConn School of Medicine and president of the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America, provided his own story of generational suffering of Ukrainians by Russians. 

“In 1929, my grandfather was arrested by the Russians. My mother, only 7 years old, had to watch her father get shot. They went after Ukrainian intellectuals, religious leaders and politicians. And they are doing the same in Ukraine,” Wolansky said. 

“In 1929, my grandfather was arrested by the Russians. My mother, only 7 years old, had to watch her father get shot. They went after Ukrainian intellectuals, religious leaders and politicians. And they are doing the same in Ukraine.”

Dr. Leo Wolanksy, professor and chair of diagnostic imaging and therapeutics at the UConn School of Medicine and president of the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America.

Wolansky also brought up the question of whether or not the war crimes in Ukraine were genocide.  

“Some people may say we need more evidence to declare it a genocide, but I know just like what happened to my mother, a little girl has to watch her father die at the hands of the Russians. A century ago it was Stalin, today it is Putin,” Wolansky concluded. 

Professor Glenn Mitoma, director of the Dodd Human Rights Impact, said that the attacks on Ukrainian civilians were a clear violation of international law. He also emphasized the importance of remembering the lost lives. 

“If we don’t remember these people, we forget. It would be a double erasure, exactly what the Russians want. To kill these people, and have their deaths forgotten. To erase the Ukrainian people, so that they will be forgotten by us,” Mitoma said.  

Students from the USA also shared their experiences over the past weeks of war. 

“How can such inhumanity exist in the day we live in? How can it be spread?” asked Sonia Zazulak, a sixth-semester molecular and cellular biology major. “My focus this past month has not been on my academics, but the lives and the safety of my family in Ukraine.” 

“How can such inhumanity exist in the day we live in? How can it be spread? My focus this past month has not been on my academics, but the lives and the safety of my family in Ukraine.” 

Sonia Zazuluk, a sixth-semester molecular and cellular biology major.

Stephania Korenovsky, a second-semester health care management and global health major, delivered a powerful speech of her own struggle to handle the war. 

“I pray that the next time I call my relatives, they are calling me from their home and not in a bunker. I pray that I will wake up tomorrow morning and not see the news cover war crimes in my own country, that I can call my mother and not have every conversation begin in tears,” Korenovsky said. 

An electric candlelight vigil was then held, followed by a cork board on which audience members could pin their prayers and hopes for Ukraine and its people. 

The service concluded with a playing of the Ukrainian national anthem and the placement of yellow and blue flowers in Swan Lake outside the chemistry building. 

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