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BYU-Idaho students organize peaceful protest to show solidarity with Ukraine

REXBURG, Idaho (KIFI) - Tensions and war with Russia and Ukraine continue to reach the homefront. Brigham Young University-Idaho students gathered together Wednesday afternoon at Porter Park in Rexburg.

One of the protest's organizers, Maggie Egan, says the protest was inspired by her friend who currently resides in California but is from Ukraine.

"We love our friend Emily. She lives in California, and we just we've been talking with her, and she just sounds so hurt, you know, for obvious reasons," Egan said. "And it's really hard to feel like there's nothing we could do. We're really far away from her. We couldn't help her, and we can't help the people in Ukraine being halfway across the world."

Egan says for her, the protest Wednesday was her way of trying to help.

"So we kind of just were trying to do something to feel a little more hopeful and to help people in our similar situations, you know, what they could do to help as well," Egan said.

At the protest, Egan and the other organizers for the peaceful protest collected donations. These donations will then be passed on to Voices for Children and Sunflowers for Ukraine.

"So at the protest today, we're going to be gathering things like laundry detergent and feminine products and diapers and then lightly used coats and hats and mittens and, and just winter clothing. And those are all going to be sent to Ukraine."

She says on a website that is yet to come, any proceeds of the merchandise they will sell will be donated to help the situation in Ukraine.

"Things that people can buy for relatively cheap and all the proceeds are going to go to a couple of different relief efforts that are happening in Ukraine right now."

Egan says they felt like doing the protest was a must, especially after Sunday's rally of support for the Ukrainian people.

"We kind of just wanted to keep the momentum going, and Wednesday felt like the day, so and then obviously we just needed enough time to plan it."

Olga Kovalova is from Ukraine and is attending BYU-Idaho. She says for her seeing so many, Americans come out to show support is really touching. "It's it's really nice to know that Americans care as well and know they're willing to help. People are showing up in this weather and showing their help and support."

Kovalova says being so far from home leaves her feeling anxious.

"We're worried all the time right now," Kovalova said. "We know that they're brave, they're strong, but it's really scary today. Hoping that they're alight hoping that they are safe. Just consistently, we're checking the news, seeing what came up, what's happening , how everyone's doing. But it's worrying is really worrying to see our friends and family just be so close to this terror."

A sentiment echoed by fellow protester and Ukrainian Nina Tulieva.

"In a physical sense, I'm fine. I'm safe and alive and this different country just doing my thing, going studying fashion," Tulieva said. "And it's really hard mentally, uh, to have this load on you knowing that there are people suffering and that you're just so helpless to it and you want to help, but you can't really do anything about it. And so for people like myself or other friends that I have who are from Ukraine here, we've really been struggling just having all those thoughts of, you know, I'm just so, I don't know, it's just this guilt of having the privilege of living this normal life. Like, how do you even continue to do anything? Normally you can't because I don't know, it's just really overwhelming."

Tulieva also says seeing so many of her American peers helps her find the strength to go on.

"And so knowing that people around you are supporting you and they care and they are also fighting for that change in any way that they can, it's it's really helpful to give that mental strength."

Henry Theurer lived in Ukraine for two years as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says everyone there definitely needs our help and support.

"And they are you know, they're holding out, they're saying brave, but they definitely need support and they definitely need help."

Theurer, says for him its nice seeing so many of his peers trying to learn about the situation.

"There are people out there who care about Ukraine, and actually know what Ukraine is. Before everything happened, honestly, I knew very little people that knew what Ukraine was. A lot of people thought that Ukraine was either in Russia or they still thought it was they they just thought it was part of Russia. They didn't know that it was actually its own country, its own sovereign state. So to me, it just shows that there are people that care and there are people who want to help.

The protest was from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Porter Park near the Beehive pavilion. Songs about peace as well as uplifting messages were shared.

Article Topic Follows: Rexburg
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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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