Several hundred people gathered in Radcliffe Square in a protest organised by the Oxford University Ukrainian Society on the fourth day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The colours of the Ukrainian flag dotted Radcliffe Square as hundreds of people gathered in solidarity to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The protest was organised by the Oxford University Ukrainian Society. As people entered the Square, Ukrainian music could be heard and representatives of the Society passed out pamphlets with a list of charities, as well as sheets with lyrics to the Ukrainian national anthem.
The protest began at 1pm with a minute of silence. This was followed by the President of the Ukrainian Society, Katrina Marina, speaking to the crowd about the invasion. “For us Ukrainians, it is one thing looking at footage… it is another thing looking at news and knowing cafés, streets, houses being shelled and destroyed,” she said, stating that the protest was about more than solidarity. She recommended people follow and share news from verified sources, appealing to attendees to “not have this issue disappear from the media”.
The Ukrainian Society presented a list of demands to the UK government, calling for the government to provide asylum to Ukrainians, military and humanitarian support, cutting off Russia from Visa and Mastercard, the expulsion of Russia from the UN Security Council, the banning of exports from Russia, stronger sanctions on Putin and his oligarchs, and a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent the bombing of civilian targets by Russian planes. Signs in the square made similar calls for the UK government to take stronger action, including “Priti [Patel], please give Ukrainians visas” and “Stand with Ukraine: Send aid, sanction Russia, welcome refugees”.
Speakers at the protest included representatives from the Oxford City Council. Statements from Layla Moran MP (Oxford West and Abingdon) and Annaliese Dodds MP (Oxford East) were read out. Moran’s statement declared, “This is the darkest moment for our continent since the Second World War.” Similar comparisons were made by other speakers and signs. One sign read, “Invasion is so last century”. The chair of the Oxford County Council said that he was old enough to remember tanks in Budapest and the building of a wall in Berlin, drawing a comparison to Soviet aggression during the Cold War, and encouraged attendees to “do everything they possibly can.”
Statements of solidarity were made by representatives from Oxford University Czech and Slovak Society, Oxford University Georgian Society, Oxford Syria Society, and Oxford University Polish Society. International support was also reflected by banners declaring solidarity from Denmark, Macedonia, Italy and others.
Ukrainian students spoke on the invasion, talking about their families in Ukraine and informing attendees of recent developments. One student, Roman, drew focus to the 150 Ukrainian soldiers, 198 civilians, and five children who have died as a result of the war, conveying the reality of grief: “Five families will be organising funerals for their children.”. Another student, Dimitri, talked to the crowd about his family in Kyiv and his fears of further escalation through Belarussian involvement in the war. Afterwards, Dimitri told The Blue, “Every sanction imposed by the West is immediately out of date… Once you get to the point where you’re happy to send thousands of people to certain death, you don’t care about money, you don’t care about the economy, you don’t care about anything.” Anger towards Putin could be seen in banners, “Glory to Ukraine, Putin, get out”, and chants of “Stop Putin, Stop the War”.
Throughout the protest, “Slava Ukraini! Heroiam slava!” echoed through the Square, reflecting a sense of pride and solidarity with the Ukrainian people. However, this was tempered by a sense of fear. Dimitri said: “For the people in Ukraine right now, my family right now, it’s absolutely terrifying…it’s utter chaos.”
After the speeches, Marina read out a poem in Ukrainian alongside the English translation, and the protest concluded with the singing of the Ukrainian national anthem. Marina said, “We are a strong people and we will get through this, but we need your help.”
In crises of global significance, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. However, The Oxford Blue has compiled a list of suggestions of things that you can do to help.
1. Attend a protest
Protests are taking place around the UK denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and showing solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Protesters are calling for measures including the imposition of tougher sanctions against Russia and an increase in medical and asylum support for Ukrainians. Taking part in a protest is a way of visibly and publicly demonstrating dissent and increasing pressure on decision-makers in parliament.
2. Donate to charities
There are many charities working in Ukraine or to help Ukrainian refugees. You can offer support by donating and encouraging student societies and bodies to donate as well. Charities to donate to include:
British Red Cross – has launched an emergency appeal to help supply Ukrainians with food, water, first aid, medicines, warm clothes, and shelter.
Sunflower of Peace – provides medical backpacks to doctors and paramedics in Ukraine to provide primary care for those who become injured or ill.
United Help Ukraine – distribute donations, food, and medical supplies to Ukrainian refugees, people impacted by the conflict, and families of those who have been killed or wounded.
UNICEF – sustaining child health and protection services; providing families with clean water, food and emergency education supplies.
3. Write to your MP
Writing to your MP allows you to lobby the government to change their policies. You can write to your MP to encourage increased efforts at diplomacy, increased sanctions, and increased measures to aid Ukrainian Refugees. Britain has not set up a route for Ukrainians to reach the UK and has stopped accepting visa applications from Ukrainians stuck in the country. This means there is no safe and legal route for Ukrainians to seek asylum in the UK. Encouraging others to write, in person or via social media, also makes it harder for MPs to ignore what constituents are saying.
4. Offer support to Ukrainian friends, family, and fellow students
This is a stressful time for everyone but especially for Ukrainians and people with family or friends in Ukraine. Reach out to those you know to check if they’re ok. Don’t make insensitive jokes or comments about the conflict; these can be hurtful and show disrespect towards those suffering.
As reported by Aryan Goenka, Duarte Amaro, Joseph Geldman, Gloria Morey, and Ellee Su.