Although Year 10 student Maxim Tchetvertnykh opened last week’s special assembly for Ukraine with facts, he also made it clear that the attack by Russian forces hits close to home.
"Today’s special assembly is dedicated to standing with Ukraine where 44 million citizens are suffering," he said. "It’s one of the largest humanitarian crises in Europe. Sadly, a large number of these people are trapped in cities without supplies. My grandparents were fortunate to be able to flee Kiev."
Tchetvertnykh, whose parents were born in Ukraine, was the driving force behind the assembly, which came together quickly with participation from the administration, the history department and UCC’s department head of modern and classical languages, Sophia Berezowsky, a Ukrainian-Canadian, who expressed gratitude for the support of the school.
Two students, Kaelem Moniz and Dmitri Oreopoulos, followed Tchetvertnykh onstage to present eight key questions and answers to inform and engage the student body.
"We are all Ukrainian," said Moniz, noting that he followed in the footsteps of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Jr. in 1963 when he claimed to be a Berliner during a speech at the Berlin Wall.
Berezowsky took the stage next. She rarely shares personal stories, but felt compelled "because people wanted to hear my story and it was about doing the right thing."
"My first language was Ukrainian and my childhood revolved around it," said Berezowsky, who has family in Lviv. "I developed a deep love for my cultural heritage and am a proud hyphenated Canadian. I am still involved in working with Ukrainian educators and I have assured them that I will support them."
"It’s sad that 30 years after achieving independence, we have to rally for Ukraine again against an aggressive war that was raised against the country for no legitimate reason. But Ukrainians have finally tasted freedom and they have no intention of giving it up."
She displayed a necklace made in the Carpathian Mountains and given to her by Ukrainian colleagues.
"When I feel sad these days, I think of their warmth, generosity and determination to build a better country."
As the students absorbed her talk, they were treated to a haunting music video in black and white created by Marc Marczyk '03, who sang an original ode to Ukraine, "Shelter Our Sky".
Berezowsky said afterward, "We had Maxim, representing the present Ukrainian generation; the history department for perspective; me, the Ukrainian Diaspora; and Mark Marczyk, the heart and soul to bring it all together."
The day after assembly was declared a blue-and-yellow day in support of Ukraine and donations are being accepted to support those who have been affected by the war.