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SUNY Plattsburgh students rally in support of Ukraine

Students at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh held a “Stand In For Ukraine” Thursday afternoon to show their support for the country and its citizens.

As you enter the Angell College Center there is a table set up with blue and yellow poster boards and Sharpies to create message signs. Nearby is a poster to attach messages of support for Ukrainians.

Management Information Systems and Accounting junior Ahmed (akh-med) Metwaly is president of the Student Association and an organizer of the event.

“I feel like it’s about standing up for what we believe is right. I don’t expect us to change the situation that is happening in Ukraine but you know it’s a show of solidarity that we stand with these people, that we’re trying to show them that we support them against what’s happening to them and it’s awful what’s happening to them. And this is just a small thing to show them they’re not alone. I think it’s just very important to show them that they’re supported and maybe that will help maybe give, helps with morale. I mean they have the world behind them.”

Metwaly, an international student from Egypt, related his own past experiences reinforcing his belief that small efforts like this help.

“I’ve lived through two revolutions back home. And I remember when it was happening it was during the Arab Spring back in 2011. I remember President Obama at the time had said that Egyptians were strong and the world was rooting for us. And I felt that made it better. Like, it was a small thig. It wasn’t physically helping but it was like, people are like behind us. We have people around the world that are like rooting for us. And I feel like it’s important for morale for the soldiers, for the people to know that the whole world is rooting for them. Everybody wants them to come out of this. And I think it helps. I really do.”

One of the students leaving a note of support is Jessica Grigolava. Both of her parents immigrated to the U.S. from eastern Europe.

“My mom from Georgia, who suffered the same thing in 2008. My dad from Ukraine. My heart is still with Ukraine. Recognition is the most important thing at times like this. People that if it’s out of sight, out of mind. So we’ve got to put it in front of everyone’s faces so no one can forget. I don’t know if you saw one guy a few weeks ago standing alone with a poster saying ‘Honk for Ukraine’. I like passed him 10 times honking my horn. It was so nice to see that on campus. But the only way for people to know what’s happening is for it to be right in front of their faces all the time.”

Metwaly is most affected by the ruthlessness of Russia’s incursion.

“There was no provocation from Ukraine and then their bigger neighbors just decided to go in and I think it’s shameful and disgusting frankly that we live in this time and age and there’s still things like that where other countries can try and take the rights of the people and the sovereignty of a different country. It’s not the 1800’s anymore. It’s not the 1900’s. Those ideas should be long dead and they should remain dead. Every country has a right to self-determination and self-sovereignty and they are violating that and I think it’s just awful.”

A small group of students eventually gathered outside to the Amite Plaza to wave signs and the Ukraine flag. Dean of Students Steve Matthews joined them.

“They understand how we all live in a global society and how their voices can be important and pulled together with all the students across the country I think it’s a pretty powerful message to send.”

The Stand In for Ukraine was held in front of the campus’ Amite sculpture by William King, which depicts two people shaking hands in friendship.