Students rally in solidarity for Ukraine, call on Vanderbilt to condemn Russian invasion

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Posted at 9:35 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 11:15:10-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — People in Nashville are showing their support for Ukraine.

Crowds of blue and yellow appeared at Vanderbilt University during a student-organized protest.

Diana Nalyvaiko, a student at Vanderbilt, said it's been heartbreaking to see her country under attack for the last seven days.

"It's been terrible we're trying our best to stay positive with the thoughts," Nalyvaiko said.

Her dad and brother are fighting Russian troops in Ukraine. Thousands of miles away from them, she's doing what she can here in Nashville to help her loved ones.

"I think that what I'm doing right now and speaking up and telling everyone that my family is in danger, my country is in danger. It is very important because it can lead to actions," she said.

She and other students organized a protest at Vanderbilt and dozens of people joined them in solidarity.

Students said they want to see the university take a stronger stance amid the crisis overseas.

"As a forum of education we believe that Vanderbilt, in caring for the members of its community and caring for just truth, we believe that Vanderbilt should condemn Russia's action," said Zacarias Negron

Ukrainian students have started a petition in hopes that the chancellor will issue a formal statement, condemning the violence.

A spokesperson for the university said Vanderbilt’s focus has been on supporting members of its community who are from the affected region. The chancellor has issued a statement in this regard.

“Our hearts and thoughts are with all those affected as we watch this terrible and heartbreaking situation in Ukraine unfold. Vanderbilt stands in support of all members of our university community impacted by these events, especially those with connections to the region, and we have reached out to those groups individually. There are many resources available to all community members during this crisis, which you can find below. As One Vanderbilt, we must come together during such tragic times to offer support and compassion to one another.”

- Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier

Luka Mushutini is a student from the country of Georgia. He says he was 6 years old when the Russian government invaded his home. He said if Putin isn't stopped now, his country could be next.

"We are a small country just a population of 3 million. In a case Russia wins there is a bigger chance that Russia is continuing their aggression," Mushutini said.

At the protest, Mushutini held this sign with a QR code where people are directed to other ways of helping Ukraine.

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Protesters hold signs with QR codes that people can scan to learn about different ways to help Ukraine.

Protesters said the acts of support will not stop.

"Our goal is to continue to spread this message of love, of solidarity but also for a need for condemnation. To speak out against injustice and evil-doing around the world," Negron said.

For Nalyvaiko, seeing people care about Ukraine gives her hope that peace can win.

"It's not only students but also faculty members and staff. A lot of people care and that's really important and meaningful for us. That community cares for us and it wants to take action," she said.