Vigil marks one-year anniversary of Ukrainian War

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Calls for diplomatic surge to prevent endless and nuclear war

The Ukranian War has entered its second year of conflict that began when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

The war is the deadliest European conflict since World War II.

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With handmade signs and Ukrainian flags to mark the one-year anniversary of the war, more than 35 people gathered at Palmer Square in Princeton for a vigil calling for a diplomatic surge to prevent endless and nuclear war in Ukraine on Feb. 24.

People gather in front of Tiger Park following one year of war in Ukraine.
Signs held along Nassau Street on Feb. 24.

“The goal is to call for a diplomatic surge to try to end the war in Ukraine,” said Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of Coalition for Peace Action, which organized the vigil.

“The problem is that if we don’t end the war that two very grave dangers continue.”

One of the dangers Moore noted is the use of nuclear weapons.

“Russia has already done a lot of nuclear saber rattling and that is reprehensible,” he said, adding Russia has a lot of nuclear weapons. “This is a danger that could escalate. We are calling for this diplomatic surge to make that go back to a lower level.”

The second major danger is an endless war.

“We have just had too many of those,” he said.

In front of Tiger Park, on the sidewalk along Nassau Street, Princeton residents and residents from surrounding communities stood together urging peace and support for Ukraine, diplomacy against the use of nuclear weapons, and advocating for more supplies ad weapons to be sent to Ukraine.

Attendees on the sidewalk along Nassau Street mark one-year anniversary of the Ukraine War.
Vigil and rally held at Palmer Square in Princeton calling for a diplomatic surge with the Ukraine War on Feb. 24.

“I came here to send a message to my community that it has been a year since the war started in Ukraine and that Ukraine is still standing strong,” said Princeton resident Olga Reptushelko. “We as Americans need to support Ukrainians as long as it takes to win this unjust and horrible war.”

Reptushelko’s main point of being at the vigil and rally is to keep people aware that the Ukrainian war is still going on.

“Ukraine is not only fighting for security, freedom and territorial integrity, but they are fighting for our freedom, our ability to stand on the street with our posters and not be afraid,” she said. “It is our priority to remind our community that we are so lucky to have brave Ukrainians also defending freedom.”

Judy Livingston, a Hopewell resident, held a sign with a message, “No use of nukes in Ukraine.”

“I am with Ukraine. I blame the war on [Russia’s President Vladimir] Putin’s ego and his lust for power,” she said. “I would like to see a ceasefire. I have to say that I am not hopeful, because it takes two to tango and I don’t think Putin is going to tango.”

When the war began a year ago, Livingston added that she thought that the war might be over in a few days.

“But as time went on, I kept thinking no [the war may not end in a few days because] the Ukrainians are resilient people and determined. I really admire their resilience and fight for democracy,” she said.

“I have always said I’m not against all wars I am against stupid wars. I don’t think this one is stupid. I think this one is worth fighting, because it is for democracy.”

The Ukrainian War has hit some people at the vigil on a very emotional level.

Sharleen Leahey, a Somerville resident, said she has been against the war since she was 12-years-old.

“This is the most dangerous time in our lives including the Cuban missile crisis, and the near misses with the Soviet Union,” she said. “We will all be in the cross hairs if a nuclear war were to erupt. That is why we are here today to stop the escalation and call for immediate ceasefire and call for negotiations.”

Anna Mendlin, a Princeton resident, was born in Moscow and emigrated to the United States with her parents when she was in high school.

She has lived in the United States for 30 years and her husband is originally from Odesa, Ukraine.

“Our hearts are burned to the ground and devastated by the war in Ukraine. Anybody who speaks Russian is in a great state of trauma, shock and grief and we want to do anything we can,” Mendlin said.

“I’m in pain for friends, a few of them still in Russia, but a lot of them are spread throughout the world. Those who are from Russia are not looked at kindly around the world and this is our cross to bear in a sense.”

Calling negotiations and a ceasefire would be in the interest of Russia and China, according to Mendlin.

“If negotiations are held now, they are held on Putin’s conditions,” she said. “What this means is that [Russia] grabs whatever they got and whatever regions of Ukraine that has been forced into Russian hands are staying in Russian hands. If the lands occupied by Russia now stay in Russian hands, people will suffer enormously.

“What will happen is that they will take a break just like they took a break in 2014 and 2022. They will gather their supplies and put their entire economy on the war rails, and they will attack again. These people do not stop, there is no morality and no good faith in negotiations.”

Mendlin said she also wants the United States to provide full-force support by providing fighter jets, tanks, military training and support to the greatest extent possible.

Princeton resident David Gelfgat is from Russia. He attended the vigil with others who are members of Princeton for Ukraine.

“We want Ukraine to prevail in this war. We support Ukrainian civilians and troops in their fight for freedom because we understand that this is existential war,” he said. “We must win and must crush this aggressive war.”

Princeton for Ukraine consists of people from Ukraine, Russia, Belarussia, and other countries, who support Ukraine, but are not pacifists, according to Gelfgat.

He added that they have raised more than $30,000 for medical supplies and have already made about eight shipments to Ukraine. The medical supplies included tourniquets, dressings, and chest seals.

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