*Editor’s note: This is a statement written by Dr. Mykola Polyuha, a professor of languages and cultures at BU, regarding the situation in his homeland of Ukraine. Dr. Polyuha will periodically submit updates on his friends and acquaintances in Ukraine.
Following the disturbing news about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one of my Russian colleagues, who currently lives and works in academia in the U.S., wrote to me: “Yesterday, I cried the entire day. I am ashamed to be Russian.” Because of Vladimir Putin’s insatiable despotic appetite for world domination, Russian intellectuals feel confused, embarrassed and helpless. Recently, more than two thousand Russia’s scholars, cultural figures and human rights activists called in despair on the Russian government to stop the “immoral, irresponsible and criminal” war against Ukraine. The Kremlin, however, entirely ignores their voices. Instead, Vyacheslav Volodin, the Chairman of the Russian State Duma, criticized the intellectuals for being unpatriotic. As a result, the Russian intelligentsia nowadays feel like German intellectuals in the 1930s who saw the rise of Nazism, but were unable to stop it.
Although Russian leaders have always liked to call their country “Ukraine’s older brother,” Russia is now, in the words of Prof. Michael Naydan (Pennsylvania State University), “playing the role of Cain bent on killing its ‘younger’ brother, Abel.” Having launched a war onto Ukraine, the Russian President counted for the blitzkrieg strategy, intimidation tactics (the sheer size of the Russian military forces sent against Ukraine is astounding), and a lack of consensus on sanctions among world leaders. But five days of conflict have clearly demonstrated that
(1) the blitzkrieg has failed and the Russian army is dragged more and more deeply into city street battles;
(2) although momentarily stunned, Ukrainians are not frightened and they meet the aggressor with fierce resistance;
(3) the Russian leader turned himself and his entire country into a political pariah.
The world community has also loudly and unambiguously asserted that Russia should no longer be allowed
(1) to re-draw borders of sovereign nations at a whim (as it happened before with the Moldovan territory in Transdniestria, attack on Georgia in 2008 or annexation of Crimea in 2014);
(2) to interfere into affairs of independent nations (e.g., Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, etc); and
(3) to pollute the media space with hatred, misrepresentations and overt propaganda (e.g., Russia-funded RT TV Channel).
The current crisis in Ukraine has brought nations together, and, in recent history, it is hard to pinpoint any other time period when there was so much consensus around a geopolitical issue. The conflict in Ukraine has resonated not only with politicians, but also widely with general population. Bloomsburg University students, for example, have organized a fundraising campaign to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine; many faculty members also donated money to charity institutions which help Ukrainian hospitals and Ukrainian refugees. In the past few days, I have been reached by hundreds of Americans, who ask me how they can help. I am especially moved by a message that I received from one of the BU students:
“If you know people who can get out of Ukraine and to the USA, and who need a place to stay, let me know. We own a house that can sleep eight (plus one on the couch) and it has an apartment over the garage that can sleep four. It’s fully furnished and ready to go. We just wanted to reach out during these rough times to make sure you and your family and friends are okay.”
It would not be an overstatement if I say that not only me, but all the Ukrainians are extremely grateful to American people for their strong support.
Together we will stop Putin and we will stop the war!