Eyes of Mariupol: Keeping Ukraine in the conversation

This February marks two years since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — a conflict that has taken the lives of over 10,000 civilians and displaced millions, resulting in Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Halfway across the world, amid questions about the future of the war and Western nations’ support for Ukraine hanging in the balance, the UBC Ukrainian community held a reception inviting all on campus to keep the conflict’s victims close to their hearts.

“I think it's important to remind the Ukrainians, but most importantly non-Ukrainians, on campus that … the war is still ongoing, that it’s not over,” said Tetiana Poliakova, the past president of the Ukrainian Student Union (USU).

The USU organized a rally on campus this past Monday, and is continuing to raise awareness of the subject through the Eyes of Mariupol exhibit — a series of photos and story snippets put together by author Anastasia Dmytruk, which highlighted Ukrainian defenders killed or taken into captivity by Russian forces.

UBC’s department of Central, Eastern and Northern European studies and the Maple Hope Foundation, a Vancouver non-profit organization working towards war relief for Ukrainians, worked with Poliakova and the USU to organize the exhibit.

“It's a truly unique photo exhibit that showcases the stories of our brave defenders that participated in battles in the beginning of 2022 in Mariupol, which is just an incredibly sad and devastating point of the history of this work,” said Poliakova.

The February 27 opening reception featured a presentation by poet Oksana Gurska, who recently published People of Steel, a poetry collection shining a spotlight on the women close to those who were defending Mariupol.

Gurska shared that her personal connection to the conflict — her own husband is currently one of those held prisoner by Russian forces — inspired her work calling attention to the Ukrainian cause.

“Sometimes I get that question: ‘Is the war in Ukraine still happening?’ It's honestly devastating to hear, because of how much pain is still around,” said Poliakova.

“We want to urge people to talk to their politicians, continue to ask them to support Ukraine, donate to Ukrainian charities if possible and just keep Ukraine alive in their conversations,” said Poliakova. “We need the support of Canadians and the international community more than ever.”

Eyes of Mariupol will be viewable on February 28 and 29 from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. in the lower atrium of the Nest. Announcements and updates about the exhibit, as well as upcoming USU initiatives, can be found on the USU Instagram page (@ubc_usu).