A message of togetherness was shared Sunday in Balboa Park as members of the international houses of Iran and Ukraine gathered to mourn the victims killed when a Ukrainian Airlines jetliner was unintentionally shot down by Iran last week, killing all 176 people on board.
"Both nations are suffering the same way," said Mehdi Moein, the Vice President of the non-profit House of Iran, who invited members of the House of Ukraine's cultural team to join him Sunday afternoon in a vigil for the 176 people killed when the plane was downed.
The two houses sit feet apart in the circle of International Cottages in Balboa Park, part of the House of Pacific Relations, which aims to promote goodwill and understanding between nations.
Surrounded by dozens of people, Moein shared a message of togetherness.
"We want to make sure our Ukrainians friends and neighbors are aware of the fact that they have the full support of the Iranians," Moein said. "Their suffrage is our suffrage."
House of Ukraine's President, Maksym Bodnar brought his daughter to the vigil. Moein offered him flowers as part of the Iranian tradition to give flowers when lives are lost.
"Today, we are joined by this tragedy, and we understand the pain from each other," said Bodnar.
Bodnar said his family was directly touched by the deadly plane crash; a friend of his daughter had family on the flight.
"They personally knew the people from the plane, and were close friends with one family that died on that crash, so it was very close to us," explained Bodnar. "It’s very difficult to explain the pain that we feel."
At the vigil, dozens of victim's pictures were surrounded by candlelight.
One of the victims honored was a San Diego Iranian graduate student, 23-year-old Sara Saadat, who was studying clinical psychology at Alliant International University in Scripps Ranch.
Saadat is from Canada and has family in Iran. She was visiting her family in Iran with her sister, Saaba Saadat, and mother, Dr. Shekoufeh Choupannejad, who also live in Canada.
All three were killed on the plane as it was leaving Tehran. Grief counselors will be available to students when they return to the private, for-profit university on Monday.