“We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine,” said Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of Coalition for Peace Action.
As horns were honking from drivers showing support, chants of “No War in Ukraine” rang out from crowds gathered at Palmer Square in Princeton on March 3.
On both sides of Nassau Street in front of Nassau Presbyterian Church and the Palmer Square Tiger, residents from across Mercer County held posters displaying messages of “Support Ukraine,” “No War,” “Stop Putin, Stop the War” and “Putin Go Home” at a Peace in Ukraine Vigil organized by the Coalition for Peace Action.
More than 200 people gathered together for the vigil with many attendees holding the Ukrainian flag as well as wrapping it around their shoulders.
“Stop this brutal dictator,” shouted one of the attendees.
The launch of a large-scale invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24 and fighting continues across the country for a second week.
According to national reports, more than 150,000 troops amassed around Ukraine before the start of the invasion with reports indicating as of press time on March 4 that 90% of the Russian combat forces gathered have entered Ukraine.
“We are trying to make people aware that this war in Ukraine is dangerous for the whole entire world. It is not only the Ukrainians’ problem, it is a problem for everyone on this planet because we are dealing with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” said Olga Reptushenko, an attendee of the vigil. “We are dealing with a monster. The Ukrainians are fighting for everyone who are here on the street, who are driving in those cars enjoying this beautiful weather.”
Reptushenko was able to bring her parents to America from Ukraine prior to the launch of the invasion. She said she believed that the war in Ukraine would occur as Russian troops made their way to the Ukrainian border.
“I trusted President Joe Biden, I trusted British intelligence, and everything that was being said. This is why my parents are here. They came on Feb. 13,” she said. “I did not want them to be there. I did not want to wait until the end of the Olympics. We trusted our government and had been aware that we needed to protect our family.”
West Windsor resident Evgeniya Brusilovsky said she did not expect the war in Ukraine to occur more than eight days ago.
“Unfortunately, I did not. I thought [Putin] would be hanging this threat, but he would not actually authorize the launch, but I was wrong. A lot of my friends were wrong, too,” she said. “This man is a criminal and everybody needs to know he is a criminal. The war will be long, it will be bloody, it will be serious.”
Brusilovsky added that she is somewhat encouraged by the support Ukraine is receiving.
“Yes and no, because it can be too little, they need people to help them,” she said. “We understand that the army cannot step in, but I am very encouraged from what I have heard today that there are a lot of volunteers coming from European countries and this is huge. If they have people and weapons, they have will.”
Attendees at the vigil in front of the Palmer Square Tiger made their way across Nassau Street to join others in front of Nassau Presbyterian Church. Together people surrounded the steps of the church holding battery powered candles and chanted “What do we want? Peace. When do we want it? Now.”
Andrea Popel, a first generation Ukrainian American who resides in Pennington, said this is an issue that does and will affect everyone.
“What is happening in Ukraine is really personal for me. I still have family over there. I check in with family every morning to still see if they are OK,” she said. “I think what Putin is doing is just awful. They say it is a Russian invasion, but it is Putin vs. Ukraine, not Russia vs. Ukraine. I feel bad for the Russian people and the position they are being put in.”
Popel was one many Ukrainian Americans in attendance at the vigil. She did not expect the war in Ukraine, but said she was not surprised because of Putin.
“I am concerned with things growing worse. He is bombing schools, hospitals and civilian areas,” Popel said.
Hamilton Township resident Artem Kirshom waved the Ukrainian flag during the vigil as he joined together with others.
“My family is suffering in Ukraine. They need air support and boots on the ground. It is too late to do nothing and talk about no boots on ground, but we have family dying every day and they need help today,” he said. “I did expect that they were going to invade after spending over $1 billion a day amassing their troops on the border. For them not to go made no sense.”
Kirshom added that something should have been done a month ago, not a week ago.
“I think it is a bit too late for the extra weapons that are coming into Kyiv. There is a real chance that they are going to surround Kyiv,” he said. “I don’t think Ukraine is getting enough support. I think both financial donation locations, as well as military support, are needed instead of standing by and watching.”
On the steps of Nassau Presbyterian Church, sunflowers were present in the hands of some attendees, which is the national flower of Ukraine.
Attendees would hear a story from a woman from Ukraine recalling a tragic event that occurred out of Luhansk, a city in Ukraine, about 20 boys ranging in age from 18-20 wanting to protect their little village and who were all killed after heading to the park.
“Please, America, help us in Ukraine,” she said.
Following her was Trenton’s Byzantine Catholic Church Pastor Yuriy Oros, who added that when the war started American bishops asked him to help them with translations while calling Ukrainian bishops about how they could help them.
“I was surprised by what all the Ukrainian bishops said. The first thing they asked us was to pray,” he said. “They said please pray for us and our people. Then they said the second thing, which was to speak up.”
Oros would finish his remarks in Ukrainian by saying “Glory to Ukraine.”
The vigil concluded with all attendees singing a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine” as they held Ukrainian flags, posters and sunflowers.