By Joe Garvey


Oleksii Dubovyk is a biology graduate student at Old Dominion University.

He is also from Ukraine.

At a Solidarity for Ukraine vigil held on campus Wednesday night, he expressed confidence that the country will persevere despite the brutal invasion by Russia.

"I came here with a very simple but important mission - to get some knowledge from the U.S. and to bring it back to Ukraine," he told a crowd of about 100 that gathered on Kaufman Mall. "And I believe that there will be a country to go back to."

The event was sponsored by Old Dominion University, the University's Global Student Friendship chapter and the University Chaplain Association. Josh Foe, a freshman business major and vice president of Global Student Friendship, was the primary organizer.

"We wanted the event to be both a vigil and solidarity event, so that we can stand together as a united community supporting each other but also have a portion of the event to pray and be mindful of what is happening in our world even if we ourselves are not in danger," he said.

Prayers, solidarity and fortitude were consistent themes of the speakers throughout the vigil.

Nadiya Ungo, a Ukraine native, said the conflict with Russia goes back centuries.

"This war did not start just with the annexation of Crimea in 2014," she said. "Russia has been waging wars against Ukraine for more than 350 years."

For instance, she said its soldiers surrounded villages throughout the country during the Great Famine of 1932-33, starving 4.5 million Ukrainians to death.

"It's an eternal war," Ungo said. "Now the evil became more powerful with the nukes, with the weapons. And we are at the spear of this fight."

She urged Americans to learn about the history of Ukraine that goes back thousands of years. She said Ukraine is a peaceful nation of 44 million people whose "children are being slaughtered at this moment."

"Don't be indifferent," she added. "Please, support Ukraine. Keep it in your hearts and prayers."

Chris Drake is a retired professor of geography who visited Ukraine in the early 1990s.

She noted "the cruel hand of geography" that Ukraine borders Russia, a country "that does not value democracy or freedom or a country's right to choose its own path."

She urged prayers for those in Ukraine "to have fortitude and courage and strength to fight oppression and violence."

"Maybe even pray for Putin to fall and to repent for the evil that he is causing," she added.

David Routhier, an ODU junior, quoted from 1 Timothy Chapter 2 of the Bible as he encouraged people to pray for Ukraine.

"God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of him. God does not desire that any man should perish," he said. "And God does not desire that Ukraine should perish."

Pastor Kevin Tremper of Crossroads Church and chairman of the ODU University Chaplain Association studied in Ukraine as an ODU college student. He said he fell in love with the beauty of the country and its people.

The people were kind, friendly and filled with "life, love and laughter."

"They dared to fight for a government and to believe in a government that was of the people, by the people and for the people," he said.

"Tonight, we gather as these dreams are being threatened and being attacked by Russia."

He said some are predicting that this could be the greatest war in Europe since World War II.

"We are asking that God would write a different story in our time," he said.

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