Pitt’s Russia, Ukraine clubs come together to protest Russian invasion


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

More than 20 students and faculty protested Friday afternoon at the Cathedral Lawn, in a show of solidarity for the recently-invaded Ukraine.

By Punya Bhasin, Assistant News Editor

More than 20 protesters sang Ukraine’s national anthem, chanted “hands off Ukraine” and carried signs saying “stop Putin” Friday afternoon at the Cathedral Lawn in a show of solidarity for the recently invaded nation. 

The protest, which included mostly college students from Pitt’s Ukrainian and Russian clubs, as well as faculty from the Slavic department, lasted about an hour. The demonstration’s primary goal was supporting Ukraine, which Russian forces invaded early Thursday morning. 

The Russian and Slavic Department reached out to the members of the Ukrainian club on Thursday to invite them to a protest against the “criminal government” of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Isabella Lewandowski, a first-year biology major and a member of the Ukrainian club, attended the protest. She said the protest wanted to show people that this isn’t something to “brush off” and that the invasion of Ukraine affects more than just eastern Europe.

“This doesn’t just affect the people of Ukraine, it affects the people here too and people of eastern Europe, and this actually affects the whole world because Putin’s dictatorship is a lie and he’s abusing his power,” Lewandowski said.

Morgan Molnar, a first-year biology major, said she hopes that by participating in this protest students will learn more about what’s happening between Russia and Ukraine. She said she spoke to many Pitt students who were unaware of how “bad Putin is” and didn’t know where Ukraine was on a map.

“I really hope and I aspire for our generation in general and like the students here to pay attention and to understand what’s going on in the world and to open their eyes and understand that there’s things going on around the world,” Molnar said. 

Lewandowksi said she hopes that after students see the protest, they will want to help and learn more about the situation. 

“I hope a lot of students kind of start to raise awareness about it and start talking about it,” Lewandowski said. “I don’t know, maybe students can come together and try to make care packages or like organize fundraisers and just come together and stand together.”

Adriana Helbig, the acting chair of the department of music, said her family is from Ukraine and that participating in the protest was an emotional experience, as this isn’t her first time protesting against Russia. 

“In 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea, I went on a hunger strike, and I felt very alone here on campus,” Helbig said. “So to be here and having the Russian club reach out to the Ukraine club in support of Ukraine is the most beautiful thing that could really be happening, getting to see that support and solidarity.”

Helbig said she appreciates and supports the people in Russia who are standing in solidarity with Ukraine. Thousands of citizens in Russia have taken to the streets to protest the invasion, under the threat of jail time.

“You see protests in Moscow against Putin and in support of Ukraine, and I would love to support every single person on the streets in Moscow, St. Petersburg or anywhere else where they’re protesting for us,” Helbig said.

Helbig said when she sang Ukraine’s national anthem alongside her peers and students, she started to cry. 

“I started to cry while we were singing it, because there was this part of it that says, ‘I’ll give my body and soul for our freedom,’ so that kind of feeling and that passion is what I see it with all the people that I’ve been talking to and the students here today, and I know that people want to support and are just trying to see how best to help us,” Helbig said. 

Helbig said she is proud of her country and her people, and she is going to do everything to support Ukraine. 

“We’re not afraid,” Helbig said. “We’re not people that are just gonna bend over and let them run their tanks over our country. My people are out there fighting and so we’re doing everything here to support and help and I’m so proud.”