• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

The Vigil for Ukraine

ByPatricia Kohring

Mar 2, 2023
President of Ukrainian society and speaker from the Polish society at the Vigil in Bristo Square

It has been 365 days since war broke out in Ukraine. In other words, this marks a year of Russia’s brutal, full-scale invasion of the country. 

In the last year, as Kvitka Perehinets, President of the UoE Ukrainian Society, reminded us, Russia has:

“killed over 6,800 civilians and 450 children; injured over 11,000 civilians; kidnapped and illegally transported over 16,000 Ukrainian children to Russia; destroyed over 5,350 schools and hospitals; left 14 million Ukrainians homeless; turned 12.5 million Ukrainians into refugees; and committed over 58,000 war crimes currently under investigation.”

Today, the society called for the university community to join in a vigil to remember and honour the Ukrainians killed, injured and displaced as a result of the unjustified conflict. 

The vigil was held at 16:00 in Bristo Square on the 24th of February. Attending were students and members of Edinburgh’s Ukrainian community. Speakers at the event included Ukrainians as well as students from Poland, Georgia and Lithuania, who recalled past Russian oppression in their own countries, recognised the history of Russia’s criminal invasionist tactics, and demanded solidarity with Ukraine. 

It was an immensely emotional gathering for everyone involved, especially for the individuals who told of their personal experiences with the war. Their courage to speak for Ukraine, to share the horrors of their and Ukrainian people’s experiences, is invaluable. This cannot be stressed enough. For many people at this university, this war, like most foreign conflicts, is easy to become desensitized to. As speakers of the event noted, the majority of students do not and cannot know the full extent of the traumatising experiences that the war in Ukraine has triggered. We read the news and skim over the statistics, numbed by the media to the horrors of war. 

Thus, despite the facts summarizing Russia’s violence mentioned at the beginning of the vigil, emphasis today was truly on the need to recognise and rehumanise our understanding of the war in Ukraine. 

Furthermore, the speakers reminded us of the implications of a (hypothetical) Russian victory. If Ukraine falls, then so too does democracy, they warned. Our ideals of freedom, justice and equality would crumble, undermined by the values (or lack thereof) that Russia has most violently exhibited in the last year. 

Throughout the speeches, the public was encouraged to light candles in honour of Ukraine and its people, as well as write words of love and solidarity on a poster featuring the country’s map. A powerful, imperative theme prevailed; “Our voices will never be silenced”. 

At the end of the vigil, Perehinets returned with a reminder that we can all support and aid Ukraine, that despite 365 days of conflict, the war has by no means come to an end, and devastation has not seized its profound impact. She encouraged the public to contribute in any way they could, whether that be in the form of donations or engagement with local volunteer groups.

The Edinburgh University’s Ukrainian Society has provided a list of noteworthy Ukrainian charities and encouraged our support of them:

Come Back Alive NGO

Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation

Voices of Children Ukraine

Gen.Ukrainian Camp


Image photographed and provided by the Edinburgh University Ukrainian Society