The Daily Iowan

Demonstration for Peace gathers on Pentacrest as invasion in Ukraine continues

Several community members, with ties to both Ukraine and Russia, stood on the Pentacrest on Sunday to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Demonstrators+gather+during+a+rally+for+peace+in+Ukraine+on+the+Pentacrest+at+the+University+of+Iowa+in+Iowa+City.+Around+60+people+attended+the+demonstration.+

Gabby Drees

Demonstrators gather during a rally for peace in Ukraine on the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Around 60 people attended the demonstration.

Rachel Schilke, Senior Print Editor


The sky was clear and the sun was shining on the Ukrainian flag as over 60 people gathered on the Pentacrest, holding signs and waving blue-and-yellow flags, to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine in a call for peace.

According to CNBC, as of Sunday, Russia is continuing to advance into Ukraine and has surrounded Kyiv, but the Ukraine administration states the capitol remains “completely controlled by the Ukrainian army and defense.”

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has agreed to send representatives to meet Russian delegates at the Ukraine-Belarus border at an unknown date “with no preconditions.” According to the United Nations, over 360,000 people have fled Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion.

For Iowa City resident Veronica Tessler, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is personal, as her father is a Soviet Union immigrant from Kyiv.

Tessler, owner of Iowa City’s Yotopia Frozen Yogurt and Nosh Cafe & Eatery in Des Moines, said her father left Ukraine in 1973, but still has childhood friends in the country, who her family attempts to keep in contact with daily.

She said her initial reaction to the violence was devastation.

“This is a country that’s faced so much in the 20th century, and we never thought that the day would come that this kind of terror would be brought to the ground there in Kyiv and across the country,” she said.

Tessler added it was amazing to see how many people came to gather to call for peace.

“I think connecting with others who are peace-loving people from all sides to lend our support for the Ukrainians — it’s just nice to gather and to meet others who have different stories, but we share a connection,” she said.

Among the protesters were veterans from Veterans for Peace, University of Iowa students and faculty, and several Ukrainian and Russian Iowa City residents.

The official demonstration was actually canceled after the organizer, a UI professor, received threats, according to UI Professor of Russian language and culture Anna Kolesnikova Dyer. That, however, did not stop the crowd from coming to support the cause.

Kolesnikova Dyer, who is from Russia, said she could not believe the nation launched war with Ukraine.

“The whole idea that Russia is the aggressor of the war, it just, like, shatters my whole heart,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Kolesnikova Dyer reached out to several of her students to come to the demonstration with her, and one, India Clay, attended with her professor. Clay has been to Russia before and said she believes Americans have the wrong idea about the opinions of most Russian people toward the invasion.

“I met the people, I spent time there, and I know that there is a difference between the people and the government,” Clay said.

Oleg Timofeyev, 59, originally from Moscow, said taking a job teaching in Kyiv was an illuminating experience for him, as he was able to distinguish the truth between what he was taught about Ukraine and what was reality.

He said growing up, he was taught that Kyiv was the origin of his country, and that Ukrainians were unreliable and traitors to Russia. He said, however, learning the whole history of Ukraine changed his outlook completely.

Timofeyev, who has lived in the U.S. for 33 years, taught a course at the UI about Ukrainian culture. He said he hopes he can teach that course again somewhere in Iowa City in the future.

“What we see right now is terrible news, and as we can see, a lot of people are here, neither from Ukraine, from Russia — Iowans get it,” he said. “I think they should know more. That’s the problem with our news machine, that when there is a military operation, we hear about it. When it’s quiet, we forget completely about the country.”

Olena Betts, who is originally from Ukraine and has lived in the U.S. for 21 years, said there is a lot of misinformation about Ukrainians, and she hopes through this conflict that Iowans will begin to understand that Ukraine is a peaceful nation that wants to be left alone.

Betts said because she cannot be with her family in Ukraine, she made it a priority to come to the demonstration.

“Right now, there’s bombs flying over the buildings where the civilians live. It’s not about military action somewhere on the outskirts of cities — it’s within towns,” she said. “It’s aggression against peaceful people.”

So far, Betts said she has been able to keep in contact with her family using social media.

When she first heard the news about the invasion, she said she was not shocked because to her, the war started in 2014 when Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea.

“It’s not like it’s anything new, it’s just the world wasn’t paying attention,” Betts said. “And now, everybody woke up and realized, ‘Oh, yeah, this is what’s going on.’”

Ed Flaherty, a member of Veterans for Peace who served in Germany from 1966-68, spoke to the crowd about the danger of a potential nuclear war, and said in an interview that there hasn’t been this close of a threat since Cuba in 1962.

He said there needs to be a peaceful deescalation in the long run, but in the meantime, Americans should should support Ukrainians who are defending their homes and the Russian protesters.

“The world needs peace, and you don’t get peace by just talking,” Flaherty said. “…The people of Russia who are on the sidewalks are being carted off to jail one after another. That’s immense courage. If what would come out of this would be some sort of ‘Hate Russia’ kind of thing, that would totally miss the point.”

Michelle “Shelly” Servadio Elias, state chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Veterans Caucus, said she wakes every morning to check the news and see if Ukraine made it through the night.

She said if the world doesn’t stand up to Putin now, she fears the situation could escalate into a world war.

“It’s just like what happened in history with Hilter: appeasement never works. That’s so important for us to learn from history,” she said. “If you just say, ‘Oh, give him this little bit and see what happens, maybe he’ll stop,’ he will not stop.”

Servadio Elias said that, if Russia gets through Ukraine, he will be at the backdoor of several NATO countries.

“They hold the line,” she said.

She added that every human deserves basic human rights, and in this conflict, it should not be anti-Russia, it should be pro-democracy and pro human rights.

“The Russian people see that in their fellow human beings, that their sovereign rights to be self-governed be treated with dignity and respect,” she said.

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About the Writer
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Rachel Schilke, Senior Print Editor

(she/her/hers)
Rachel Schilke is the Senior Print Editor and one of the Projects Editors at The Daily Iowan. She is a senior at the University of Iowa...

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