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A vigil for Ukraine in Montpelier spotlights unfolding humanitarian crisis

A photo of a group of people holding an oversize blue and yellow flag of Ukraine on a sidewalk outside a post office
Peter Hirschfeld
At a vigil outside the Montpelier post office on Tuesday, Vermonters urged their neighbors to support Ukraine and its people.

Casting votes on local ballot measures isn’t the only way Vermonters are participating in democracy this Town Meeting Day.

About three dozen people held a vigil for Ukraine in Montpelier this afternoon.

Sofia Shatkivska, who was born in Ukraine and now lives in Washington County, said it’s been three days since she was last able to make contact with her sister. The last time they spoke, according to Shatkivska, her sister was huddled in the basement with her two young children to take refuge from the bombing outside their home in Ukraine.

On a cold afternoon outside the Montpelier post office, surrounded by friends and well-wishers holding Ukrainian flags and other signs of support, Shatkivska said her country needs help.

“Because people run from their houses and they don’t have any place to be. Mostly babies and mothers. And they don’t have place,” she said.

Shatkivska is urging Vermonters to contribute financial and material support to humanitarian efforts on behalf of Ukraine.

A group of people in winter coats holding Ukrainian flags outside a post office
Peter Hirschfeld
Sofia Shatkivska, second from left, has been unable to contact her sister in Ukraine for three days.

She said she also wants Americans to pay closer attention to the military crisis unfolding in Europe.

“Because it will touch you sometime. I don’t want this, God forbid. But this sort of enemy is worldwide enemy,” she said.

Read more: How Russia’s invasion of Ukraine impacts people in our region

That sentiment was echoed Tuesday by Sarah Seidman, of Middlesex, who said she’s also been unable to make contact with friends who live in Ukraine.

“America is so sheltered and so distant,” Seidman said. “In Europe, 100,000 people were demonstrating in Berlin. They know the danger that’s ahead if we don’t quell this drive for power that Putin has.”

Organizers of Tuesday’s event say they’ll hold be holding vigils in Montpelier every Tuesday and Thursday to call for the end of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

A Dartmouth student on being here while his family is in Ukraine

Nathan Syvash is a Ukrainian first-year student at Dartmouth who spoke with VPR'sVermont Edition today. He calls his parents in Ukraine every day to check on their safety.

"I just feel guilty — a really deep sense of guilt — that I'm not there and not with them," he said.

Syvash and the other Ukrainian students at Dartmouth say they've been fielding lots of questions from their American classmates about why Russia invaded Ukraine.

"There's no single answer, because this is a very long, ongoing aggression toward Ukraine," he said. "The context is immense."

State-level sanctions

Vermont is one of many states imposing state-level sanctions against Russia in light of its invasion of Ukraine. Norwich University international relations professor Lasha Tchantouridze discussed U.S. sanctions on Vermont Editiontoday, and he believes Russia's leaders will not be swayed by these types of actions.

"It sends a clear message to ordinary Russians, Russian citizens: They will be hurt by these sanctions," he said."Russian businesses will be hurt. There's no question about it. What I'm suggesting is, it's not going to hurt the Kremlin and its military machine."

Vermont has halted the sale of Russian-owned brands in liquor stores, and Gov. Phil Scott plans to announce further state sanctions later this week.

Mikaela Lefrak contributed reporting to this story.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Peter Hirschfeld:


Updated: March 1, 2022 at 4:17 PM EST
This story has been updated with quotes from Nathan Syvash, a Ukrainian first-year student at Dartmouth.
The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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