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Monday, April 15, 2024

Organizers across Davis hold candlelight vigils supporting communities in times of war

Local Davis organizers hold vigils at Central Park to show their support for the people of Ukraine 

By CHRIS PONCE — city@theaggie.org

Content Warning: war, violence

On Feb. 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion into Ukraine labeled as a “military operation.” In the wake of the war, the Ukrainian people are fighting back or fleeing from their homes and seeking refuge. More than one million Ukrainians have fled the nation, and the death count continues to rise. This invasion has affected people across the globe, and as the war continues, organizers across Davis have made a statement. 

Community organizers Dannelle Larsen-Rife and Deardra Larson responded to the invasion by taking local action. They have been organizing candlelight vigils throughout March. The first vigil was held on Thursday, March 3, but fewer than 10 people attended. This turnout didn’t discourage them as they organized another vigil a couple of days after, and the crowd increased to 30-40 people, according to Larsen-Rife. As word of mouth spread, the turnout continued to grow.

Larsen-Rife spoke on how she and her friend were inspired to unite the community. 

“I looked at my children and family and just thought about, you know, if we stay silent, these things just keep happening, that we need to come together,” Larsen-Rife said. “We need support, we need to offer support. And so I reached out to my friend Deardra and said, you know, I think I want to do a candlelight vigil.”

The third vigil titled “The Light of Love for Ukraine” was held Sunday, March 6 and started at 6:30 p.m.. The event was located in Davis Central Park. Candles were given to those in attendance as the crowd grew. Ukrainian flags and flowers were placed on the stage.

The organizers invited people from the crowd to speak, allowing for everyone’s voices to be heard. Deardra emphasized the importance of the vigil and how vital it was for members of the community to support one another in these trying times. 

Many of the speakers had a Ukrainian or Russian background. One of the opening speakers shared messages from her family and those she knew in Ukraine. 

“The civilians were rapidly evacuating from occupied cities — women, children [and] old people,” the speaker said. “And they were shot, just a column of civilians were shot. Many died, others were wounded. They’re killing civilians. It feels like they, meaning Russian invaders, are not even people.” The speaker continued, saying their contact in Ukraine was apologetic: “Apologies, my entire being, my entire soul is screaming. Our city is holding on.”

Another speaker talked about how they had family in both Ukraine and Russia and have been communicating with them frequently. The speaker said a family member of theirs from Ukraine told them, “I just didn’t have enough time with my grandchildren to enjoy.”

Julia Metzler, a speaker from the vigil and an Ukranian immigrant, spoke about Davis’ sister city, the Ukranian city of Uman. Metzler emphasized that Davis helped her feel “connected” to Ukraine. She has lived most of her life in Davis with her mother and calls this place home. Metzler commented on her family’s perspective in Ukraine. 

UC Davis tree near Memorial Union covered in homage to the Ukrainian flag to show support for Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia.

“My family members have mixed emotions,” Metzler said. “Some of which really think that Ukraine’s going to pull through, and they’re just there using the air-raid sirens to go down to their basements and take cover.” 

Metzler also shared information about her other relatives in Ukraine who are worried about their futures because of the war.

“I have other family members who feel like they can’t leave Ukraine,” Metzler said. “They have young children. They have husbands that they don’t want to leave behind. They don’t know what they’re going to do in terms of jobs when, if, they do end up seeking solace in a different [country] or seeking refuge in a different country. So they feel like they don’t have an option of leaving, if the war does end up directly on their doorstep. So it’s definitely some mixed emotions over there.”

The vigil ended with a moment of silence for the war and the following devastations. The organizers plan to host more vigils throughout the month and are fundraising for people in Ukraine. Donations for urgently needed helmets and vests can be made at Helmets & Armory Vests for the European Defenders, and other aid information can be found at Ukraine Aid Information & Resources on Facebook.

 During the vigil, Metzler quoted an English translation of the Ukrainian National Anthem: “Ukranians’ glory and freedom haven’t died yet. Luck will still smile on us, brother Ukranians. Our enemies will die as the dew does in the sunshine, and we too, brothers, will live happily in our land.”

Written by: Chris Ponce — city@theaggie.org


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