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Hanover demonstration shows impact of Ukraine turmoil in the Upper Valley

  • Davin and Maeve Leypoldt, both 10, center, joined a demonstration in Hanover, N.H., on Friday, March 4, 2022, in support of Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion. Niamh Leypoldt, their mother, said this was a positive way for them to contribute and support the children suffering in Ukraine. The family is from Heidelberg, Germany and is spending six months in Hanover while their dad teaches at Dartmouth College. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

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    Valentina Barrett, who is Ukranian and lives in White River Junction, held a sign reading "Stop Putin" during a demonstration in support of Ukraine at the corner of North Main and East Wheelock Street in Hanover, N.H., on Friday, March 4, 2022. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Sandy Steel, of Meriden, left, and Nancy Katz, of Norwich, right, gathered at the corner of the Dartmouth College Green in Hanover, N.H., on Friday, March 4, 2022, with an estimated 200 people to show support for Ukraine as it fights the unprovoked invasion by Russia. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/4/2022 9:51:48 PM
Modified: 3/4/2022 9:51:24 PM

HANOVER — Valentina Barrett, from Ukraine, and Natalia May, from Russia, stood side by side among the 200 people who came to Hanover on Friday to show their support for Ukraine.

“I’m not sleeping all night,” Barrett said. “I’m crying.”

Barrett’s niece, who is in Ukraine, sends her messages every day. She has no plans to leave the country despite the bombing and the Russian advance. Instead, she makes netting for the military and food for refugees.

“She’ll do everything for victory,” Barrett said.

Barrett and May met because May, who has a law degree, helped Barrett’s son navigate the American immigration system years ago.

“Putin is not all of Russia,” May said.

May held a “Stop War” sign — wording that held a special significance as Moscow instated new laws to punish anyone who called the conflict a “war” to 15 years in prison. She struggles to talk to her own relatives in Russia about the crisis because their perceptions have been so skewed by state propaganda, she said. As Moscow shuts of access to social media, Russians will have fewer ways to access narratives that break with the state’s insistence that the war is a “military operation” to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.

Ukrainians from across the Upper Valley gathered on the Dartmouth Green among American sympathizers. Andrii Murzda, who works at Dartmouth, has not heard from his sister or his parents in Ukraine for nearly a week.

“It’s not just Putin,” Murzda said. “It’s the Soviet mentality. Ukraine wants freedom — not to listen to what the king says.”

He and several other Ukrainians at the vigil urged for more intervention — specifically, weapons to fend off Russian air attacks and a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

They described how Russian bombing fell near the homes of their friends and families, and they listed the deadly possibilities for Europe if a bomb fell on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant or the remains of Chernobyl. And they returned to the fact that Ukraine gave up its own nuclear weapons because the U.S. and the U.K. guaranteed its defense.

“We need protection of airways. … We will protect from the ground,” Oleg Dubitsky said.

But the specter of escalating into a “World War III,” and nuclear war, loomed. The conflict stirs memories of hiding under desks and in elementary school basements in the 1960s for Judy and Paul Barker, of West Lebanon.

The Hanover vigil is one of many in the Upper Valley.

At Colby-Sawyer College, Katerina Delgiado, a Russian student, organized a vigil for Ukraine on her campus on Friday evening. As Moscow closes off access to social media in Russia, she will lose any way to communicate with her family.

Delgiado, 20, grew up under Putin.

“I remember it becoming more and more scary with every year of my life,” she said. But with the latest invasion into Ukraine, she said it feels that “there was a line they crossed.”

Her family opposes Putin, and in Russia, her friends and half-sister are protesting the war. She has heard stories of the police raiding homes where people put candles in their windows to show their support for Ukraine.

“They consider all honest information false,” she said.

Olga Sobko, a nurse at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, is organizing a rally for peace in Colburn Park on Saturday.

Her parents were Ukrainian refugees after World War II. They fled to Brazil before settling in the United States.

“One of the resounding things I hear from my own family, from other Ukrainians, friends that I know — we’re all feeling an incredible and overwhelming despair, helplessness, frustration and sadness,” she said.

She grew up with her parents’ trauma, she said, and their memories shape how she understands the crisis.

“This is a Stalinist legacy that Putin wants to fulfill,” she said. “The Holodomor, back in the 1930s, was when millions of Ukrainians were starved to death by Stalin. I believe Putin is trying to relive that same type of ethnic cleansing.”

Between 1932 and 1933, about 4 million Ukrainians died in a man-made famine as the Soviet Union industrialized.

She and Polina Sayess, a doctor at DHMC who moved from Ukraine in 2000, hope to help refugee families settle in Vermont and New Hampshire. Sobko feels that she owes it to her own parents. She has requested in-person meetings with Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen. In about two weeks, she and Sayess will meet with Joanne Conroy, CEO of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health. They plan to talk about employing Ukrainian refugees at the medical center. When the time comes, Sobko hopes that families with Airbnbs or extra rooms will open their homes.

Her great concern is that after the first few days of the crisis, as it drags on to day 21 of death and suffering, people will forget.

“This new part of history cannot be silent,” she said.


■Rally for Peace in Ukraine and Russia: Noon to 1 p.m., Colburn Park, 51 N. Park St., Lebanon. Supported by the Military Employee Resource Group and International Employee Resource Group.


■Moment of Pause Vigil for Ukraine: 6 p.m., Woodstock Green, Route 4, Woodstock Village. Bring candle to light; extras available.

■Walk and Candlelight Vigil to Support Ukraine: 7 p.m., Huse Park, 308 Route 4, Enfield. Meet at 6:45 p.m. to light candles before walking down Main Street to Lakeside Park for a short ceremony

■Peace Demonstration for Ukraine: 5 p.m., Canaan Green, at the junction of Route 4 and Route 118. Bring signs, friends and flags.

Places to donate

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has warned well-intentioned people to be careful of fraudulent charities. The following three organizations were endorsed by people interviewed for this article or The New York Times.

■The Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia is fundraising for humanitarian aid (

■Mercy Corps has worked in Ukraine since 2014 and is sending aid workers to Romania and Poland along the Ukrainian border (

■Save the Children has also worked in Ukraine since 2014. It is has distributed supplies and helped unaccompanied minors fleeing the country. (You can navigate to their Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund through

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