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Ukrainian Village Students, Parents And Teachers Rally For Peace In Ukraine

"We need to show them support and be together and show them that we're here. Even if we can't do much from here, all we can do is support them and and be there with them," one Columbus Elementary teacher said.

Sofia Rupa joins dozens of students, teachers and parents at Columbus Elementary School as they marched around Ukrainian Village calling for peace back home in Ukraine on March 3, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — Dozens of students, parents and teachers rallied outside Chicago’s only bilingual Ukrainian public school Thursday, calling for an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Columbus Elementary School, 1003 N. Leavitt St., offers language programs in Ukrainian and English for Ukrainian-American students who live nearby. Attendees at the rally carried balloons, Ukrainian flags and signs that said, “Ukraine We Are With You” as they marched through the area.

Fourth-grader Sofia Rupa, who attended the rally with her mother, said she’s worried for the safety of her grandmother and uncle, who live in Ukraine.

“We are here today to say that we support Ukraine,” Rupa said. “I want people to know that Ukraine is going to be safe. … We need to support Ukraine.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Dozens of students, teachers and parents at Columbus Elementary School marched around Ukrainian Village calling for peace back home in Ukraine on March 3, 2022.

Columbus Principal Wendy Garr-Oleksy said Thursday’s rally was organized to support the school’s students with family in Ukraine and condemn Russia’s “senseless use of violence” over the past week.

“As educators, we spend a lot of time teaching students to talk out conflicts, to work out issues by using words and not violence. We teach students about sharing. We teach students about consent and not just taking what they want because they want it. Yet on an international stage, our students are witnessing the opposite of what we teach them day after day,” Garr-Oleksy said.

“It is challenging to explain to children why an adult would take what they want when they want it, causing chaos and damage and death. It is our hope that this unrest ends very soon.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Dozens of students, teachers and parents at Columbus Elementary School marched around Ukrainian Village calling for peace back home in Ukraine on March 3, 2022.

The Russian army continued to advance through Ukraine on Thursday, with forces taking control of Kherson in the south, according to The New York Times. More than 1 million refugees have already fled the country, according to a United Nations official.

Vlad Levinskyi, president of Columbus’ local school council, said he hopes the United States and Europe get more directly involved in the war effort. Otherwise, he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin will turn his eyes to the rest of Europe.

“It’s like it’s a proverb in Ukraine: … When the last Ukrainian soldier will fall, you’ll say hello to Putin,” said Levinskyi, whose stepson, Danylo, is a seventh-grader at Columbus.

Levinskyi said his 83-year-old father in Kyiv is hiding in his basement from Russian shelling.

“This is the second bombing of his life because when he was like 3, 4 years old, he was sitting in the basement with his mother and there was bombing during World War II,” Levinskyi said. “That’s why I’m emotional. I feel what I’m saying.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Tetiana Fernandez, a bilingual teacher at Columbus, said she’s been using the last few minutes of her classes to discuss the war with her students and how they feel about it.

“They’re like, ‘Oh, did you hear Miss Fernandez that this and that happened,’ and, ‘Oh, I also read and my mom told me.’ This is just very scary, because these are kids, they barely understand basic things in life, and they are now faced with the war,” said Fernandez, who moved to the United States from Ukraine last year.

Fernandez said her students are juggling the realities of daily life with concerns about the war.

“It”s hard because in Ukraine, people think right now only about war. Here, you have your regular American life. And then you also have the war life. And you kind of need to combine it together. So I think it’s mentally more frustrating for them right now than they realize it is. But I really believe, well, they’re Ukrainian. They’re gonna manage,” Fernandez said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Ermis Morales, a pre-school teacher, said she’s encouraged her young students to talk about what they know about the war.

“We sat in a circle, and we talked about unity and being together. … They just talked about peace and wanting the war to end [because] they knew it was not good,” Morales said.

Marching around the block with students after the rally, Morales said Thursday’s gathering was an important show of solidarity with the school’s Ukrainian-American students and their families.

“We are here, and we are in Ukrainian Village. We need to show them support and be together and show them that we’re here. Even if we can’t do much from here, all we can do is support them and and be there with them,” Morales said.

Multiple events in support of Ukraine are planned for this weekend. A peace vigil will held 3 p.m. Friday at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St.

A Ukrainian flag-raising ceremony will be held 12:30 p.m. Sunday at 1100 W. Grand Ave., followed by a rally at Daley Plaza.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

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