Oslo – Saturday 26th marked the third consecutive rally in protest of the attacks in Ukraine from Russia during the early hours on Thursday. The protest was organised by Ukrainian Association for Eastern Norway, The Ukrainian Association in Norway, The Norwegian Democracy Association, SmåRådina and the Norwegian Peace Council.
In the late morning, over 1,000 protestors gathered outside the Norwegian parliament as they listened to speeches from Norwegian politicians and organisation leaders who condemned President Vladimir Putin’s actions. Then the crowd made their way to the Russian embassy.
We spoke with internationals from Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Netherlands and Canada to get an insight into their thoughts around the protest.
Dmitrii Bondarenko Griffin (Russia). Photo: Ka Man Mak / The Oslo Desk.
Dmitrii Bondarenko Griffin is a Russian who has been residing in Norway for 10 years, also a member of Smårådina, an Oslo-based movement for democracy in Russia, joined the Oslo protest yesterday, “I couldn’t just sit at home while my country invades an independent country these days. It’s my way of saying ‘No’ to this war and to these actions.”
Dmitrii has mixed feelings attending the protest as he witnessed people from all backgrounds crying, in sadness and anger. “But I feel people are together,” He said. “This doesn’t have to happen. There is no place for war these days.”
He said that there have been deep concerns over the years, and now there are practical proposals that are promising, “It is time to have sanctions for everyone who is responsible for this decision.”
“As a Russian, I feel some shame for what happened. My country is now like Germany in 1939. It’s my country crossing over other country’s borders. I want to say that Russians are also big victims. There are no winners in a war.”
Dmitrii furthered that he was lucky to not get arrested in Norway as elsewhere his people in Russia are paying a high price and being punished, “They get suspended from their university or kicked out of their jobs. And guess, if you are a young male, at the age of 20, where you are suspended from university, where will you go? The army. They will go to Ukraine and kill their brothers and sisters. This is of deep concern.”
[Left to Right] Dascha Van der Hout (Netherlands), Fiona Meinköhn (Germany) and Steven Griffin (Canada). Photo: Ka Man Mak / The Oslo Desk
Steven Griffin from Canada heard of the protest from his Russian husband whom we spoke to earlier. With him are his international friends who also joined him at the protest. They all wanted to be there to show support.
Fiona Meinköhn, from Germany said, “For me, this is, in general, an important cause. I am a student in Peace and Conflict studies so this is a real topic for me. And as a German citizen, Germany has a close connection to Russia. Too close for my taste, especially on the topic of the North Atlantic gas pipeline that was to go on as planned, which was cancelled last week. I think that took way too long. And Russia is given too much power in the past years, and that needs to change now.”
Dascha Van der Hout, from Netherlands, said “It’s important for Ukraine to know that we are behind them. […] That we are united.”
“There is a strong feeling of togetherness. That we are all there for one cause,” said Steven.
Fiona agreed with Steven and chimed in that it gave her hope, “I want to give credit for so many Norwegian politicians who took a stand at the demonstration today against Putin and Putin’s agenda. [I have] respect for that.”
“It was emotional to see how many people came together, and walk together,’ said Dascha.
They all agreed that sanction was a good first step, but more actions are needed to be taken such as NATO sending in troops and European countries should be prepared to take in Ukrainian refugees. The ultimate hope for them is to see that the situation doesn’t escalate and turn into a “third world war”.
[Left to Right] Ukrainians Iryna Rusnak, Anna Gavryliuk and Olha Soloviova. Photo: Ka Man Mak / The Oslo Desk
“Being at the protest was much better instead of being at home checking the newspapers,” said Iryna Rusnak. “We have no idea what is going on there as there is bad connection. You can’t call. And you started to think bad thoughts. it’s extremely hard. You’re not sleeping either. The night is the most horrible, and you are waiting. And they’re attacking during the nights.”
Anna Gavryliuk, from Ukraine, nodded in agreement and chimed in, “It was very good to have some officials introduce themselves in the protest. There were actually some messages that are new and I think Norway actually changed the way they approach things. They become more practical and down-to-earth; having specific plans.” It was also encouraging for her to hear Norway’s strong stand on the conflict.
Anna’s mother is in Kyiv, right in the centre of the invasion, have been spending the night in a cellar with the neighbours. Her mother who is 59 has had an operation in the summer, “She can’t go anywhere, and I cannot help her.” Her mother managed to find a cellar to hide with their neighbours nearby and it had no hygiene facilities.
“I keep calling my mother each hour, and I think she sleeps like four hours a day. I sleep four hours a day. At night, it’s extremely difficult. I know that our army is doing their best,” said Anna. She was notably tired and felt powerless in not being able to do anything even though she checks on her friends.
With a father who was Russian and mother being Ukrainian, Iryna saw the future of Ukrainians as hopeful, which her friends agreed, “All Ukrainians want peace, and to live in peace.”
“We are very hopeful, but the thing is that until all of this started, no one believed that it would happen. No one can be sure of anything, the only way is to stay united, and push it all back. Remove the source,” chimed in Anna.
Many of their colleagues have been supporting them, and they admitted that it was difficult to talk to them about it. Olha Soloviova, has recently moved to Norway about a month ago and hasn’t got colleagues but was supported by her husband who said he could take her down to Poland to visit her family.
Poland has set up reception points near the border to Ukraine and is accepting them in. Since the invasion, at least 198 Ukrainians, including three children have been killed according to Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Liashko’s Facebook post on 26th February. 1115 injured, 33 of which were children.
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Updated: Corrections made regarding the cellar. According to Anna Gavryliuk, the cellars were technical rooms holding technical equipment, for example, water heaters for the building.