HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – Students and community members gathered at the base of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge in Houghton to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. This initiative was created by three international graduate students at Michigan Technological University and Nadija Packauskas a Lithuanian American, who came together to support each other and spread awareness for the tragedy happening in Ukraine.

Nazar, Adelina, and Adelina’s family in Kyiv, Ukraine in 2018
Photo Courtesy: Adelina Oronova

Nazar and Adelina are a happily married couple both attending Michigan Tech and two months ago, one simple text message turned their worlds upside down while they were thousands of miles away from their loved ones.

“I received a text from my previous lab mate and she asked how I was doing with the things happening in Ukraine and I picked up my phone and I was like, ‘What?’ and it was right there and I opened the news and it was all over,” Adelina Oronova, Ukrainian student at Michigan Tech said. “That’s when I realized it and was scared”

The two wanted to do something to show support for their home country and they weren’t alone.

Nazar and Adelina showing support for Ukraine on MTU’s Campus
Photo Courtesy: Adelina Oronova

“There is a Russian student, Ženia Sidorov, he’s also a Fulbright student and he was protesting on the street in Houghton,” Oronova said. “He met a Lithuanian American Nadija Packauskas, she is not in Houghton right now but she is constantly working to help Ukrainians back in her state. Ženia connected us, and since then we’ve been working altogether. During the first week of the invasion, we’d been having demonstrations on campus every day, from Monday to Friday. Nadia also started walks on the bridge and we joined her initiative and we’ve been having these walks every Wednesday since. These demonstrations are not just something visual because we are present there. There are actual Ukrainians that can actually provide you with some information but it’s was also a good way to meet people. Lots of people they want to help but they don’t exactly know-how.”

The number of people wanting to stand with the people of Ukraine quickly grew from four to dozens. The group meets every Wednesday to stand with Ukraine and they intend to do so until the war is over.

“I think that I get a bit of empathy and it really means a lot just to find a sort of psychological relief in that,” Ženia Sidorov, a Russian student at Michigan Tech said. “I just think that we all find that somehow in this that it really helps you to deal with it when you actually do something and when you’re not left alone with a news feed reading about your hometown or your country and what is happening over there.”

When asked what he would say to the people of Ukraine, Ženia Sidorov responded saying,

“I would say to the people of Ukraine, you have our support,” Sidorov said. “Maybe we are not the majority of Russians, but maybe there are a few of us who actually oppose it and our hearts belong to the people of Ukraine.”

The support that the Coopper Country has shown for Ukraine since the war began two months ago has been heartwarming for Nazar and Adelina to see.

“It really helped especially in the first weeks, it was difficult because it was the first time in our lives that this is happening,” Oronova said. “You don’t know how to cope but when you feel better when you know that there are people out there who support you, who are actually understanding what is happening, and they ask questions trying to understand it better and ask how they support.”

More information about upcoming events in the Copper Country can be found on the ‘Yoopers for Ukraine’ Facebook or by clicking here.