students protest the russian invasion of ukraine on centennial, holding up various signs

Stunned students protest Russian invasion of Ukraine

This report is part of ongoing coverage of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Visit our dedicated page for more on this topic. 

A crowd of stunned Ukrainian students and supporters gathered at Northeastern’s Centennial Common Thursday, protesting Russia’s unprovoked airstrikes and military invasion while scrambling to connect with loved ones in the war-torn country.

“I’ve been up all night, just watching the news,” says Dima Vremenko, a third-year biochemistry and computer science major whose grandparents live in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. His mother has connected with them and they’re safe for now, says Vremenko.

Vremenko had been keeping an eye on the mounting Russian presence at the border throughout the week, but he was still surprised to see the invasion.

“Very shocked. There’s always the threat, but at this point it becomes a reality,” says Vremenko, who moved to the U.S. with his parents when he was 10 years old. “It’s very weird. It still feels like it’s not really happening.”

He joined a crowd of roughly 20 Northeastern students who gathered at the common Thursday, holding Ukrainian flags and signs that read “Russian hands off Ukraine,” and “Stop the war.”

Deanna Zawadiwsky, a fourth-year psychology and economics major, is president of Northeastern’s Ukraine Cultural Club. She organized the gathering Wednesday night as Russia launched their first airstrikes along the eastern border.

“Ukraine is one of those countries that just keeps getting hit and hit and hit, and it just seems like once they stand up they immediately get smacked back down,” says Zawadiwsky, who has cousins living in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, and Lviv all in western Ukraine. Russian forces began strikes along the east border, but then seized control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant as part of a multipronged invasion that swept  through Ukraine Thursday.

“It’s been rough. Last night at 10:30 p.m. the main attacks and the shelling started. In Ukraine that’s about 5 in the morning, which is unthinkable. This whole thing has been unthinkable,” says Terenia Hankewycz, a fifth-year civil engineering major.

“I stayed up talking to family and friends for many hours just trying to coordinate and make sure their families are safe and that the people who need to get out are able to get out.”

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Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University.