Dean Gail Stearns guides evenevent attendees in a silent meditation and prayer for the people of Ukraine.
The Rev. Gail Stearns, Ph.D., dean of the Wallace All Faiths Chapel, guided attendees through a silent meditation and prayer for the people of Ukraine.

“I Watch the Faces of My People and Feel Their Pain in My Bones” Ukrainian Chapman Staff Member Shares Personal Impact of War

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to unfold, Erica Evans watches anxiously from afar as the war ravages the country where her family has its roots.

Evans, who serves as Chapman University’s assistant director of annual giving campaigns, is the daughter of Ukrainian refugees from the former Soviet Union. 

Since the war began, Evans has turned to social media to rally support for the people of Ukraine, including sharing with her network tangible ways to support Ukrainians who have been affected. She was among the staff members who spoke at an event in support of Ukraine hosted by Fish Interfaith Center on Thursday, March 10.

A vigil table, draped with cloths in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, was displayed next to Evans as she shared the following reflections on the ongoing crisis.

In 2018 I went to Berlin. As I was walking the streets and visiting historical landmarks, I felt empowered. Strong. As if I could take on the world. I stood where Hitler gave a speech. Me. A Jew. A granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. A daughter of Ukrainian refugees from the USSR. Standing where Nazis stood listening to him. I visited the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. I felt like I was walking towards the future. A world where we truly would see peace. Where it didn’t matter where my family came from or my religion.

And now, I only see the past. I only see how Hitler was able to gain his power. I only see how millions of Jews and other minorities were able to be murdered. I only see how my people were abandoned. I see the past because all of this is happening again in front of my eyes. I watch as Putin villainizes Zelensky, the Jewish president of Ukraine. I watch as Putin damages a Holocaust memorial. The Holocaust memorial where the largest mass killing of Jews occurred. I watch as Ukrainian civilians are murdered in cold blood on the streets. I watch as Holocaust survivors are reliving terrors they haven’t seen in 80 years. I watch as childhood is taken away from every Ukrainian child. I watch the faces of my people and feel their pain in my bones. I watch in disgust as world leaders sit silently by, providing their minimal support. Your silence is deafening. I am defeated. I am heartbroken. I am disgusted.

As I reflect on the atrocities taking place, I cannot help but recall Martin Niemöller’s poem “First they Came”:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Michelle Anguka

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