DEROIT (WXYZ) — The Ukrainian national anthem played as people gathered by the flag poles on Wayne State University's campus to stand with Ukraine during a peace vigil Thursday.
Andrii Derlydsa is an exchange student from Ukraine. As he watches the war unfold, he told 7 Action News he feels helpless.
“It’s very strange for me because I’m thousands of miles away from home and I can’t help them," he said.
He's in Detroit for a semester from Kyiv National Technical University.
Derlydsa says his classmates are hiding out.
“Kyiv is surrounded now. My friends don’t go online because they are in basements and there is no internet or communication in basements," he said.
As people wave the Ukrainian flag and some hold posters, graduate student Olena Danylyuk is asking the community for help.
“Ask our legislators to vote and to help us. We don’t need boots on the ground. We don’t want to sacrifice other lives, but we need to protect us from this guy. We need a free-fly zone," she said.
Political science professor Alisa Moldavanova is asking university leaders to take a firm stand on Russia's invasion and light up the Old Main Tower blue and yellow to support Ukraine.
“Wayne State University has made and official decision to take a neutral position. It’s a failure of leadership because that’s the least this university can do is to condemn the invader," Moldavanova said.
In an email to the campus community, university President Roy Wilson says he stands with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ recent letter condemning the Russian invasion of the sovereign state of Ukraine.
Wayne State University is a member of the association.
Dean of Students David Strauss says changing the color of the lights isn't his decision, but he wants students and staff to know that they stand united and there are resources available.
“Their mental health is the number one concern. We are here for them, and we are reaching out and we are doing whatever we can do to help them be well," Strauss said.
Derlydsa says watching Ukrainians, military and civilians defend their country is brave.
“I’m proud of Ukraine and I hope the next time you will hear about Ukraine, you will think of Freedom," he said.
The full APLU statement can be found online.