“This Is the Only Right Place to Be Right Now”: Why AUC Students Protest Against the War in Ukraine

By Franciszek Dziduch

Collage by Amal

For the past few days, the world has been observing in horror the unfolding war in Ukraine. Following the worldwide outrage over the events in Ukraine, a protest also took place on Sunday afternoon at the Dam Square in solidarity with Ukraine. Among the 15’000 protesters, many familiar faces of AUC students were present who felt the need to speak up. The Herring has interviewed some of them and asked one question: “Why are you here?” These are their responses.

Photo by Franciszek Dziduch

Agne Cepaite, second-year Science major from Lithuania: “I am here for many reasons, but one of the important ones is because I am Lithuanian – that’s very close to my heart and the essence of who I am. Lithuania went through a similar situation 30 years ago;  my parents stood in Lithuanian squares like I’m standing now, but instead of just protesting, they were blocking tanks with their bodies, and there were sacrifices. I know of people who have died there. It’s too close. So, whenever this happens – and it’s not the first time, it’s not the first Russian aggression – it boils my blood and I feel like I need to do something. This has been such an enormous misstep and such a mistake in history. Whatever happens, we have lost already, but if we respond properly, we can put a stop to it. I’m here and trying to engage more people, but there’s not much I can do; I’m just a student, I can’t donate that much money, but I can raise awareness. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do at AUC for the last few days, and that’s why I’m trying to bring people together. We also brought this huge Ukrainian flag to the protest and the idea of this was to make it as big as possible, because that big of a flag you can only hold with everyone that is there. It’s kind of a symbol of solidarity, that we can hold Ukraine, and we can stand with it, but only together. And that’s what I was trying to do here today. One last thing: to anyone who makes comments about protests not changing anything, I am here, in Amsterdam, because of the protests in Lithuania. This is how we gained our freedom and independence from Russian oppression. Protests can bring real change.”

Photo by Franciszek Dziduch

Hasan Mısırlıoğlu, first-year Humanities major from Turkey: “I am here, like everyone else, to support the Ukrainian people, to show solidarity. But more than that, I am here to demand sanctions to be immediately implemented by the countries of the EU, especially I am here to demand for Turkey to put sanctions and to ban the Russian warships from the Bosphorus, and that is what my banner says. The text translates to: ‘Erdogan, close the Bosphorus or the straits in general’. Erdogan refused to do so a few days ago, and Turkey has been helping Ukrainans, but they definitely need to do more, I am here to demand that specifically.”

Photo by Franciszek Dziduch

Helena Burdzińska, first-year Humanities major from Poland: “I am here because I think it is the only right place to be right now in Amsterdam. Of course, I wish with all my heart to be in my country, in my city. I could be of more help there, I could engage in accommodating the refugees. But at this moment, the only thing I can do is to send my thoughts to Ukraine and attend this protest. When I look at the pictures showing the devastation in Ukraine’s cities, these places are similar to those that the pictures could’ve been taken in my city. I was only used to seeing war pictures from history books in black and white. But they were taken yesterday, the day before, today. My family lives in the part of Poland, which is mainly inhabited by the people, who used to live in so-called ‘Kresy’, territories that are now either Ukrainian, Belarusian or Lithuanian. These people were deported after WWII. Because of this part of history, my family struggled with finding out where we are exactly from, but if there’s one place I am from, it’s most probably Lviv, the city that was bombarded this week. Looking at these pictures is so hard, as you know exactly where the sites are. I was there a few years ago, and now there’s nothing… I am also here, as my home country for centuries has been occupied by Russia, my ascendants were murdered by Russians, we share similar history of opression with Ukraine. This is the high time we started fighting together, against this power.”

Photo by Franciszek Dziduch

Ayelle Tiné, second-year Social Science major from France: “I’m here to stand in solidarity with the women and men of Ukraine, in the war that they are facing. I was also protesting here when the Taliban took control over Afghanistan or when Israeli occupation of Palestine intensified. I think it’s important to show support, because, while there are other ways we can help, we feel puzzled while reading news and not knowing what to do, so being here and seeing that there are so many people that are fighting for their cause is really touching.”

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