Ukrainian KU professors worry as their families still live in the country
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – KU professors from the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Language and Literature Oleksandra Wallo and Vitaly Chernetsky try to speak with their families almost daily to get updates on their well-being.
Wallo’s family in western Ukraine told her they were safe for now, but were shocked Thursday morning by the reality of a Russian invasion.
“Lviv is not under fire at the moment, although there were sirens this morning, so they are just determined to stay. Fight if necessary,” she said.
Most of Chernetsky’s family lives in Odessa. Her cousin’s husband is in the Ukrainian army and her father lives alone. Some cousins live in an enclave that has them surrounded by Russian forces.
“They packed emergency bags, they live near a metro station which has tunneled quite deep like many former Soviet stations were and I think it’s likely that many other people from the ‘enclave will go to the metro to spend the night because they’re concerned about a potential bombardment,’ he said.
They both say the invasion was a gradual process.
The conflict of the Chernestky sites over Ukraine’s desire for independence dates back to the 18th century. He said he was strengthened in 2014.
“2014, the first Russian invasion, was a wake-up call and it really sobered, solidified and consolidated Ukrainian society. What I will say is that was the opposite of what the Russian leadership wanted to achieve. They wanted to demoralize and defragment Ukraine and the opposite happened,” he said. “They wanted to demoralize and defragment Ukraine and the opposite happened. People have become more united and motivated across different walks of life, across the political spectrum, across religious beliefs. It has become a much more unified country with a stronger sense of self.
Wallo said the past few weeks have created worry and uncertainty about what will happen. But it also strengthened their connection.
“People would say if that happens, we’re going to fight. This is our land,” she said. “We are going to stay and we are going to protect ourselves and our homes and our families.”
They take this as a chance to make the voice of their people heard.
“In Ukraine as in Kansas, wheat and sunflowers are symbols of our land. In fact, the famous Kansas wheat was brought by the Mennonites to Kansas from southern Ukraine. There is a deep historical connection between our region and Ukraine,” Chernetsky said.
Both say Kansans can help by reaching out to members of the community with ties to Ukraine. You can ask organizations like the Ukrainian Club of Kansas City and the KU Ukrainian Studies Program. There is a demonstration to show support for Ukraine on Saturday in Kansas City Square.
“I got a lot of emails, voicemails, and I think of this kind of co-workers old acquaintances and even strangers, people who just thought of Ukraine I guess just watched on the internet my name or maybe one of the stories I’ve been on and written to reach out to see what they can do to help.. Even offer to buy a bunch of flags Ukrainians and flying them around the neighborhood,” Chernetsky said. “It’s also a nice gesture of support.”
Wallo said: “Ukraine is currently on the edge, if you want to call it that, of Western democratic resistance and if Ukraine does not succeed here, war will come to the rest of the world. It is therefore crucial that the rest of the world supports Ukraine and helps it in any way.
Ukrainian woman living in Topeka fears for her family
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