By Caitlyn Brady
Children, parents, and city officials gathered in the schoolyard of P.S. 145, The Bloomingdale School, on West 105th Street this week to rally support for people suffering in Ukraine, and for the Ukrainian students and families who attend the school.
All around the schoolyard kids and their parents stood wearing the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Families stood holding handmade blue and yellow banners and signs that read “Stop the war.” Some parents brought blue and yellow balloons to show their support.
Co-President of the Parent-Teacher Association and Ukrainian American, Sasha Stashwick kicked off the meeting by speaking about her connection to the cause through her Ukrainian roots. Stashwick spoke about the atmosphere of the school as a multicultural and multi-language community.
“Diversity is our strength,” Stashwick said. “We’re here as one community to voice that value, and to say that we stand for democracy, we stand against this senseless war, and we will stand with one another and protect one another.”
On either side of the podium, groups of Bloomingdale school children sat holding the signs they had made. Many of the older kids sat watching and listening intently to every person that spoke.
The school’s principal, Dr. Natalia Russo, continued after Stashwick’s introduction. Russo acknowledged the difficult years the world has experienced with COVID leading up to today. The main message of Russo’s speech focused on the effect on both the Ukrainian and Russian families and staff who are a part of the school’s community.
Russo reminded the crowd about the importance of supporting the students and families affected by the war every day. After thanking the staff for showing up and continuing to work during this challenging time, Russo handed the microphone to Community Education Council Member Naveed Hasan.
Hasan, the CEC3 Multilingual Committee Chair and a parent at the Bloomingdale School, shared his connection to Ukraine through his wife. Hasan stressed the importance of deconstructing the stigmatization of speaking non-English languages in America.
“The community is hurting these past few weeks, which is obvious from the meetings I have with parents from drop-off and pick-up every day,” Hasan said, “This is why I felt it’s important to have a strong show of solidarity here with Ukraine and against all wars of aggression.”
Gale Brewer, former borough president, and current City Council member followed Hasan’s speech. Brewer commended the strength of the multicultural community that represents the school and pointed out their support for all groups throughout the. community.
“Ukrainians have demonstrated to the world how brave and strong they are under the assault. It is unimaginable and unacceptable,” Brewer said.
Brewer then called out the effect that the young people have on the community around them. “The students here, across the nation, and across the globe. They show us how to resist. Like the Ukrainians yes, we can pray and plead for peace. But to do the most good we have to organize and that’s what the young people have shown us to do.”
Borough President, Mark Levine followed with his own show-up support for the cause. Levine said, “People of all backgrounds are united in standing with Ukraine in this moment of trauma.” Additionally, Levine voiced his pride at the reaction New York City has shown in response to Russia’s action in Ukraine.
“Don’t let anyone use this crisis to divide New York City. Don’t let anyone use this crisis to divide the people of New York City,” Levine said. “We are united in our diversity of all backgrounds, all nationalities, all languages, all religions. We support the people of Ukraine.”
Having recently visited Kyiv, Council Member Shaun Abreu also praised both Ukrainians and Russians who have stood in solidarity.
The rally ended with a trail of young students approaching the podium to say they stand with Ukraine no matter what their background. “Peace in Ukraine is good!” one proclaimed.