A Ukrainian woman told a vigil she does not want her homeland to be forgotten as the war rages on, urging people to keep supporting the besieged country.
Staff, students and people from across the Scottish capital gathered in George Square for Thursday’s event, led by the University of Edinburgh’s chaplaincy service.
Kateryna Polyakova told the crowd she does not want the “whole world just to witness us” – but for people to “support us with their prayers, support us with their thoughts, (and to) support us in whatever way they can”.
“It doesn’t matter what our religion is or our beliefs, but we all hope for a better, more kind world, a more loving world,” she said.
“And it’s really hard to accept that in this world, in our days, especially in this spring and (time of) hope things are happening like (what is) happening in Ukraine.
“I know its hard for everyone but I really don’t want people just forgetting and just relaxing. I want you to pray for us and support us with your thoughts, with your gifts, with whatever you can.”
In the emotional speech outside the Gordon Aikman Lecture Theatre, Ms Polyakova said that no matter how big or small vigils are, it is important for people in Ukraine because “in between all of the hell and between all of the deaths, they know that someone very far away is still thinking of them and still supporting them”.
She told how her mum, in Kyiv, “who is much stronger than anyone in my family” was scared as the Russians tried to force their way into Ukraine’s capital.
She asked: “Can you imagine the other people?”
Sunflower seeds were handed out, allowing people to plant Ukraine’s national flower, while people at the event were draped in the Ukrainian flag.
The Rev Harriet Harris, the University of Edinburgh’s chaplain, said people in the capital – Kyiv’s twin city – were able to send a powerful statement of support to Ukraine.
“We gather here, sending out our compassion for the people of Ukraine and all caught up in that conflict and all conflicts, and also standing in solidarity, which means standing in unity with them, and standing in hope, which always has its feet planted in reality,” she said.
Professor Peter Mathieson, the university’s principal, said the university is helping to provide sanctuary for academics displaced from Ukraine and is starting a partnership with a university in Kyiv to help them resume teaching.