Asheville community rallies for peace in Ukraine


Celestine J. Epps

Djanky Delanie, Tyler Ladd, Hazel Brindley and Emma Maton performed “Blowing in the Wind,” while preaching practical solutions to ending the bloodshed in Ukraine.

In only eight days, a million refugees successfully crossed the Ukrainian border, leaving their war-stricken homeland in search of peace. As world leaders attempt to de-escalate the largest European conflict since World War II, Bulldogs in the Asheville community are doing their best to show support for the nation.

“Shock,” Oksana Love, chemistry lecturer said when she first heard the news of Russian airstrikes. “Shock and then a lot of different emotions after that.”

Love, chemistry lecturer, immigrated to the United States from Lviv, one of the largest cities in Ukraine, when she was 20-years-old to continue her education at UNC Asheville.

“It’s just hard to believe in this day and time that somebody would actually do something like this,” Love said.

Live and consistent coverage of the developing military invasion is emotionally exhausting for Ukrainian-Americans in Asheville and others in the community who are keeping a close watch on the global consequences to come. 

In the meantime, refugees and their families are urging sympathizers dressed in blue and yellow to follow through on their words of solidarity with donations to reputable nonprofit organizations.

“Most importantly if anyone wants to help, they need to donate- Period. Anything is better than nothing, every penny right now is important,” Love said.

5,029 miles away from Lviv, Asheville residents demonstrated their support for Ukrainians through music at Pack Square Park on March 5.

“None of us are going to bring peace to Ukraine. We can’t save the world but it all starts with you,” guitarist, Tyler Ladd said.

William Najger, an Asheville artist known for decorating the former Vance monument site with love and vote signs in October 2020, organized the peace rally to draw attention to humanitarian aid and spread a message of love.

“The answer is not people doing degradation sanctions or advocating for spending more money on military weapons or perpetuating the industrial-military complex globally,” 31-year-old Artist Emma Matson, said at the rally. “Whether it’s for defense or offense, those machines shouldn’t exist.”

The musicians shared their pacifist perspective on the war with fellow participants and onlookers Saturday afternoon, accompanied by pedestrians shaking tambourines and banging on hand drums provided by organizers to keep their attention on the occupied street corner.

“All you need is love [and] practical action!” Matson said after the group performed their version of the Beatles hit.

Asheville musicians prepare their set at Pack Square, surrounded by vibrant posters echoing pacifism on Saturday, March 5. (Celestine J. Epps)

Students like Daemeah Karbeah, creator of Africans in Ukraine are addressing reports of racism and discrimination toward Black foreigners at the Polish border. The activist group connects resources for Black students and foreigners throughout the diaspora to humanitarian aid, safety tips and volunteer opportunities to assist in evacuating refugees.

“As you can imagine, we are overwhelmed with trying to get Black people to safe neighboring countries so we are grateful for, and open to any help we can get,” Karbeah said.

Using the hashtag #AfricansinUkraine and #NigeriansfleeingUkraine, Black refugees shared their traumatizing experiences across the web. Since then, numerous nonprofit and local groups responded to cries for help and condemned government officials for not responding sooner.

Focusing on real help that will go to real people is the first priority for supporters here at home.

“It’s the only peace you have control over,” Ladd said. “You find that peace with the realization that we’re not separate. No one is an island. We are all part of each other.”