Ukrainian protesters in Eindhoven show their solidarity

Several dozens of Ukrainians gathered on Eindhoven’s 18 September square on Thursday to protest against the Russian invasion of their country. The protesters didn’t unite in a group in advance but found each other on the square, where many of them gathered on their own initiative to make their voices – or better: their silence – heard. Cursor spoke to Bachelor’s student Oleksandr Ivanenko and PhD student Pavlo Burda.

photo Bridget Alcione Spoor

The first protesters gathered on Eindhoven’s 18 September square on Thursday morning. They haven’t had a single moment’s sleep since Russia invaded Ukraine. Still, the protesters had been expecting problems for some time already, considering previous events in Georgia and Ukraine, as is clear from their banners. Oleksandr Ivanenko: “We’ve been fearing an outbreak of war for some time.” Burda: “This invasion is truly horrific. We are here to make ourselves visible. The protests in The Hague and Amsterdam are on a larger scale, since these cities have larger numbers of Ukrainian citizens.”

PhD student Cybersecurity Pavlo Burda arrived this morning to make his voice heard and hoped to meet fellow Ukrainians, which he did. “I have family living in Lviv in western Ukraine. Explosions were reported there today.” He was still able to get in touch with his family. Burda: “I spoke to cousins, nieces and uncles on the phone today and via WhatsApp.” Ivanenko also had contact with his family over the telephone today.

“Despite everything, people over there aren’t really panicking,” Burda says. “They had been expecting violence to erupt for some time now. But this escalation is on a shockingly large scale, the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in seventy years. This will have a global impact,” he believes. “As we wrote on our banners: who’s next?

Crying in the bathroom

Bachelor’s student Industrial Engineering Oleksandr Ivanenko also came to the square to protest. He had been lying awake since early this morning after he spoke to his fiancée, who is still in Ukraine. “She heard explosions, she was afraid and sat in the bathroom crying. My hand was shaking when I talked to her on the phone.” Ivanenko and his fiancée are from Kharkov (also known as Kharkiv, ed.), a city just south of the Russian border. “They are bombing us. As we speak, my fiancée is probably in a bomb shelter, of which there are quite a few in Ukraine, fortunately. Many apartment buildings have one, and the many subway stations are a good place to seek shelter as well. People share tips via social media on where to hide.” This also shows just how important telecommunication is for the people of Ukraine right now.

Studying with war

Ivanenko’s thoughts are constantly with the invasion, and he approached his academic advisor for support. “This will in all likelihood impact my study activities.” Education and Student Affairs (ESA) has said that it hasn’t received any request for help from Ukrainian students so far, nor are there any exchange students from TU/e currently studying in Ukraine.

Ivanenko: “I don’t know any fellow Ukrainian students at TU/e, just a few Russian-speaking students with whom I’m in contact.” After today, he at least knows one fellow TU/e student from Ukraine, as well as many compatriots in Eindhoven who support him in his grief over the situation in his home country.

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