Ukrainian student holds rally, speech in Faner Plaza


Sophie Whitten | @sophiewhitten_

Diana Butsko, a Ukrainian SIU student, holds a Ukrainian flag March 2, 2022 in Carbondale, Ill.

Diana Bustko, a second year Ukrainian international master’s student at SIU, organized a pro-Ukraine rally March 3, at 2 p.m. at Faner Plaza.

Bustko is a Fulbright Scholar who received a scholarship to study in the United States. She lived in Kiev, where she worked as a political reporter.

Bustko is angry over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. During the rally she gave a speech where she shared stories of her family and friends and tried to rally students to action by making them aware that it’s not just European safety at stake.


“It’s a violation of international law,” Butsko said. “I think it’s something that the world hasn’t observed since the Second World War. But for me, I find it disturbing.”

Bustko said when Puttin attacked Ukraine, it was in the early morning at 5 am, similar to the way Adolf Hitler began his invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

Bustko said the whole week has not only been hard on her, but her family as well.

“I’m constantly checking [the] news because they keep bombing cities, bombing civilians, [. . .] just every day, every hour, I’m just checking,” Bustko said.

Bustko said her family is suffering and she is trying to raise awareness about the issue any way she can.

“I’m trying to organize fundraising campaigns and organize rallies because the worst thing to do is sit by and do nothing,” Bustko said.

Bustko said the Ukrainian people resisted occupation by stopping Russian tanks, blocking streets, and meeting face to face with armed Russian soldiers.


“ A lot of my friends, they were journalists, they were professors, they were teachers, and now they’re in the army. Those who didn’t join the army helped refugees and people in need,” Bustko said.

These actions stir memories of past images, like the famous Tank Man photo taken during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, China.

Bustko was not the only student upset by Russia’s actions against Ukraine. Jose Burgos, one of the volunteers with the rally and a student at SIU, said with the recent conflict going on misinformation can be spread fast.

“There is a lot of misinformation coming from the Russian regime. So we have to be really careful with what we read,” Burgos said. “There is this news chain that I would not recommend reading, which is [Russia Today] news, [it] is just propaganda.”

Burgos said in order to make sure people are getting accurate information about the Russo-Ukrainian conflict they should be watching reliable news sources.

The rally today is not the only event that will help spread awareness about the struggle between Ukraine and Russia on campus, Burgos said.

“On March 16, there’s going to be another rally thanks to the Chancellor of student engagement. […] and that’s going to be a peaceful rally in the alumni Plaza,” Burgos said.

Olga Weidner, the President of the United Nations Association in Southern Illinois said today the General Assembly passed a resolution signed by 193 states that called for Russia to withdraw immediately from Ukraine.

Bustko said there are only five United Nations countries who have refused to condemn the Russian invasion but those oppositions haven’t stopped the war yet.

“The truth is Russia is killing Ukrainian children, and no one dares to stop it. Russia has been killing civilians for eight days so far. Around 2,000 people were killed, 1,000,000 people became refugees and Putin keeps bombing residential areas in beautiful cities into ashes,” Bustko said.

Weidner said 677,000 refugees are already out of Ukraine but the figure is going to go up to 4,000,000.

“The International Criminal Court, is going to take up the question of genocide against Ukrainans on March 13. This proves we’re moving forward united against this intrusion,” Weidner said.

Dachi Zasnoshvili, an SIU student from the country of Georgia, said Russia has invaded his country in the past and he sees parallels between the Ukrainian invasion and the invasion in Georgia.

“Putin attempted to provoke action, a lot of bombings which he thought would spark a reaction from the Georgian government,” Zasnoshvili said.

Zasnoshvili said his family in Georgia feels terribly unprotected.

“A lot of times the messaging is that Ukrainians at this very moment are fighting the war for Georgia as well, because in the worst kind of case scenario were Putin is not stopped in Ukraine, who is going to guarantee that he’s not going to invade Georgia next or you know, like any other post Soviet state,” Zasnovili said.

Benjamin Bricker, a SIU professor of Political Science said this war is an issue that affects everybody even in the United States.

“This war seems likely that it won’t stop in Ukraine and so we have to start thinking about that and need to begin preparing how we want to defend the values that the United States has been putting forth for such a long time,” Bricker said.

Bustko encouraged students to spread the word on their social media, donate to organizations supporting Ukraine and send letters to local members of Congress.

Dale Coleman, a pastor from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, said society has seen people in this country who use lies and propaganda and try to shut down the press because they don’t like any dissident voices.

“Trump told Putin that no one would stand against him because the West was defeated, due to stark divisions. And the United States would stand with him if he (Trump) had been reelected,” Coleman said.

Colman said an Episcopal Church that’s right in the middle of Kiev, owned by Lutherans was bombed.

“This is what Putin has unleashed. He wants terror in Ukraine, he thinks the people will fold. If you saw that, in the paper today, a Russian soldier who’d been captured calling home and crying about what he was doing and what the Russians were doing. Everyone is against this except for Putin,” Coleman said

Bustko said her sister’s friend from Eastern Ukraine, the region that is suffering the most, told her children are left alone in a bomb shelter in the city. The elderly people with them in the shelter passed away, the bodies of parents lie on the streets, and no one can tend to them because Putin is constantly bombing the city.

“That’s why your support means a lot to me, my friends and my family. It keeps them alive and reminds them that the world remembers and cares,” Bustko said.

Staff reporter Joel Kottman and Assistant to the Editor Janiyah Gaston can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] on Twitter: @JoelKottman and @DEJaniyah. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.