“No to war!” Aberdeen shows solidarity with Ukraine
Updated: Mar 28, 2022
Students and citizens step in to help those affected by Russia’s invasion
By Anttoni James Numminen - additional reporting by Katerina Vilemova
Courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen
“My name is Maria, my mother and I are from Kyiv, my sister is in Kyiv right now with her children, as is my aunt, and my cousin. They are stranded and they can’t escape the violence of the Russian bombs. They are coming from land, sea, and air, and they need to be stopped.”
This was the message of Maria Vladimirovna, a young Ukrainian woman who spoke at a demonstration in support of Ukraine, held at Castlegate on Saturday 26 February.
The event, which saw hundreds of people of various nationalities take part, was just one of many acts of solidarity and outpouring of kindness that have taken place in Aberdeen in the days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.
Online pages providing advice to those trying to leave Ukraine have been created and collections of food, sleeping mats and hot water bottles being sent to Poland’s border with Ukraine have been started.
The University of Aberdeen has also sought to provide support to those affected by increasing the capacity of its support services.
Alisa Koester, president of the student’s association (AUSA) told The Gaudie that the association was working closely with the University “to make sure that any students who are directly affected by this, receive the support that they need.
“We have also reached out to the Ukrainian students’ union to check up on them and are waiting for updates from them to see how we as a bigger student movement can support Ukrainian students further.”
The demonstration at Castlegate, organised by the Association of Lithuanians in North East Scotland (ALNES), saw various speakers take the stage to ask for international support for Ukraine, while also calling for tougher sanctions and action against Russia.
One of the speakers, a Ukrainian of Russian descent, whose family lives near Cherkasy, in central Ukraine, held a sign that read “Putin, hands off Ukraine” and through tears she told those gathered how she received a message from her mother at six in the morning saying, ‘I am still alive’.
“I phoned her immediately and she told me that a military base in Cherkasy was bombed, and she had to hide in her cellar all night. It’s winter, it’s cold.”
The event also saw members and political candidates of various parties attend the event, including Green, Labour and SNP politicians, as well representatives from groups such as the UN Association Aberdeen Branch.
Despite the piercing cold wind and grey skies, the several hundred people at the event occupied Castlegate Square for almost two hours, with a few police officers standing at the sidelines.
Despite tears and an overall solemn feeling, the event concluded with a rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem and a cry of ‘Slava Ukarini!’ or ‘glory to Ukraine’ which seemed to fit with the overall feeling at the event.
An elderly woman from Eastern Ukraine called Ljuba, told The Gaudie how her son and grandchildren were still trapped in Ukraine near Donbas, and as a result, she had not slept for the past three nights or days because of the stress.
She said her son had faced visa issues, with the British government receiving criticism for failing to lift visa restrictions from Ukrainian citizens, unlike many other European states at that point.
“This has been going on for days and I haven’t slept, even though I’m working. The stress, so much stress. But I’m keeping in touch with my son, every ten to fifteen minutes, we still have a connection through Telegram.
“The key message is for all countries to help, help now. Close the skies. People can cope with soldiers, but they can’t cope with the Russian bombs from the skies.”
Her friend, a Ukrainian graphic design student at NE Scotland College told The Gaudie how shocked her family was but that they were trying to stay strong. “If other countries were sending more weapons and closing the airspace, that would help.”
Asked if she thought Ukraine would succeed in holding off against the powerful Russian forces, Ljuba said “Yes, Ukraine will win, but it needs help. Not helping is too high a price to pay, too many deaths.”