Hundreds gather in Durham in support of people of Ukraine

Ukrainian flags, passionate speeches and tears shared amongst friends

On a wet and rainy Monday afternoon, local residents and students alike joined in solidarity with Ukraine. Stood below the Marquis of Londonderry statue, four Ukrainian students recounted their families’ tribulations while some 200 attendees listened woefully.

Market Place was a sea of blue and yellow with flags, face paint and homemade signs. One student told of how her family had fled to Kiev from the Donbas region in the 2014 war, only to be caught in conflict again. While the mood was somber and the stories were devastating, the spirit of the organisers was resolute as they relayed how their families refused to run from and submit to the Russian regime.

A Polish international student took to the megaphone to remind us of the importance of these colours, representing the beautiful skies and wheat fields of Ukraine as well as the similarities they bare to the European Union flag signifying unity and strength in numbers. Reminding all of us bystanders to stand with Ukraine.

One speaker became overwhelmed with emotion while recounting a story of civilian death in her hometown, her peers comforted her while the protest attenders shared tears. At many points throughout the protest it was clear the distress and suffering that the Ukrainian students of Durham are experiencing.

The Ukrainian chant “Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes”, popularised in the 2014 conflict, echoed around Market Place, shouted with strength from all in attendance. The speakers told of a Ukrainian saying that hungry wolves are stronger than satisfied wolves, “Ukrainians have had a past full of hunger, surely now they will have a future full of strength”.

The Tab Durham spoke to a Ukrainian student and one of the speakers at today’s protest about what the event meant to her. When asked, Tetiana Loiko told us “this protest today meant that, as my father says, “everyone is fighting on their own front”. Today we were fighting on our own front. Today we stood outside in the rain, we shared our stories and we were united. This protest means that Ukraine has support all over the world, even in a relatively small city like Durham. Ukraine is strong and powerful, and we have been proving that for the 5th day now. Ukraine is not only fighting for themselves now but also for the rest of the world”.

Organisers urged attendees to join larger protests in major UK cities which are more specifically demanding Russian forces stop the war and European countries intervene. Those who have the means to do so were urged to donate to charities offering aid to Ukrainian refugees who are left without food and clothing.

A photographer captured key moments of the protest with the organisers asking those who didn’t wish to be photographed to stand to one side, acknowledging the consequences that Russian nationals face if caught opposing Putin’s regime.

How can you help the movement?

As we watch the conflict in Ukraine continue to escalate, it is more important than ever to offer support. Students who have the means to should donate money to charities focusing on humanitarian and medical aid for Ukrainian refugees and citizens. Suggested charities include British Red Cross, UNICEF and United Help Ukraine.

However, there are more than just monetary ways to help Ukrainians, Tetiana further told The Tab Durham that “students [should] message their friends and family that know someone in Ukraine and let them know that they are being supported. Spreading awareness is very, very important”.

Moreover, write to your local MP and urge them to call for further action in parliament. For those registered to vote in Durham, the Member of Parliament for Durham City constituency is Mary Kelly Foy.