Cambridge lights up King’s Parade and Senate House in Ukrainian colours for vigil

Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope and Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor Graham Virgo were in attendance

CN: discussions of war, conflict

This evening saw Senate House and King’s Parade lit up in solidarity with Ukraine at a vigil organised by the University. Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope made an introductory speech, encouraging those present to show solidarity for “all people affected by the war of aggression launched against Ukraine.”

The vigil was also attended by Graham Virgo, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor.

Kings College Chapel lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Image credits: Sarah Swift 

Toope reiterated that the University’s position is in line with the UN General Assembly’s in demanding that the Russian Federation “immediately and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine.”

Toope introduced Andrii Smytsniuk, Language Teaching Officer in Ukrainian, and Stepan Blinder, a PhD student in the faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics. Both Smytsniuk and Blinder work in Cambridge’s Slavonic Studies department.

In his speech, Smytsniuk emphasised the importance of referring to the situation as a war or invasion rather than a conflict and reflected on how “the war seems so far away and yet it is so close… there are Cambridge alumnae who are at this moment being bombed in Kyiv.” He also stressed the importance of people continuing to speak up against the invasion.

Smytsniuk mentioned that at least one Cambridge student has left the UK to assist in the war. This may refer to Nikolai Nizalov, a first-year at St Catharine’s who has left to assist in the war and is currently helping with supply runs (although at the time of writing he is not currently in Ukraine).

Blinder followed Smytsniuk and spoke at length about education, particularly the importance of Eastern European studies being considered distinct from Russian studies. He spoke positively of Cambridge’s Ukrainian Studies programme, describing it as “something extraordinary” that was helping people understand that “Eastern Europe is not exclusively Russia.”

He encouraged the University to provide established Ukrainian scholars with research residences and spoke of how he hoped Cambridge would “gather Ukrainian scholars from around the world.”

Crowds outside Senate House. Image credit: Sarah Swift.

Blinder ended his remarks on an emotional note, describing the scene in Ukraine as “the devastation of a glorious nation.” His speech was followed by several minutes of silence before the vigil concluded with a choral work entitled “A Prayer for Ukraine.”

Featured image credits: Sarah Swift