'It's traumatizing for everyone': UConn professor from Ukraine fears for safety of family, entire nation

Published on Tuesday, 1 March 2022 12:41

@NewBritHerald | @TheBristolPress

The Russians’ brutal invasion of democratic Ukraine last week has caused emotional reactions of condemnation and worry worldwide, including within the halls of academia.

Local university professors and academics at the University of Connecticut and Eastern Connecticut State University said they are concerned about the well-being of Ukrainian citizens, who are being killed in the fighting. 

UConn doctoral candidate Volodymyr Gupan hails from Ukraine and teaches the issues the country faces in his political science course at the UConn-Hartford campus. 

Gupan said he fears for the safety of his family as well as his fellow countrymen.

His mother and father are currently sheltering in place in rural Ukraine. 

They chose to leave their condominium in the capital city of Kyiv due to Russian encroachment in the city. 

Gupan’s aunt and uncle are currently seeking refuge in a bomb shelter in Kyiv.

“It’s traumatizing for everyone,” Gupan said. 

“Something like that should not happen ever,” he said of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “It is unforgivable when a large empire (Russia) tells Ukrainian people that they have no right to exist.”

Gupan cannot fathom why the Russian military would attack Ukraine. 

Ukrainians made up a sizable portion of the Soviet Army during World War II, as they helped fend off Nazi Germany.

“Ukrainians gave their lives to stop Hitler and now we are being attacked by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin the way Hitler attacked Ukraine,” Gupan said. 

Gupan compared Russia’s assault on Ukraine to Nazi Germany’s assault on Kyiv in 1941.

Caitlin Carenan is assistant chairperson of the history department at ECSU and said she was utterly shocked when Russian forces invaded Ukraine last week.

“I never thought I would see a land war in Europe with a democracy being invaded as a sovereign country,” Carenan said. 

Carenan said she is particularly concerned about what Putin might do next.

“He’s not interested in the truth,” she said. “He is heading a government that has done an excellent job of spreading misinformation to the United States and Europe.”

Like Carenan, Scott Moore, associate professor of history at ECSU, was shocked Russia invaded Ukraine.

“We should all be shocked that something of this magnitude has happened,” he said. “We haven’t seen war on this scale or at least a war of conquest with a neighbor trying to take over another neighbor since World War II.”

Given the fluidity of Russia’s presence in Ukraine, Moore said it is difficult to predict the United States’ future involvement in the conflict.

He said he is pleasantly surprised how the U.S. and other NATO countries have imposed sanctions on Russia. 

“The one clear thing is that the use of any sort of actual military is obviously off the table because that would escalate things in a way that would be entirely too destructive,” Moore said.

He did say, however, the U.S. and NATO can provide a lot of support to Ukraine by providing them with weapons. 

Martín Mendoza-Botelho is the chairman of the political science, philosophy and geography department at ECSU. 

Unlike Gupan, Carenan and Moore, he said he was not surprised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week. 

“In recent years, we’ve seen a rebalance of powers around the world,” Mendoza-Botelho said. “Russia and China are getting more involved in terms of their assertion of dominance.” 

Gupan said he believes Russia will continue to assert its dominance over Ukraine.

He said the Russia-Ukraine conflict is much bigger than those two countries. Putin's hunger for territory will not stop with Ukraine, Gupan added. 

“If he is not stopped in Ukraine, he will not be stopped, period,” Gupan said.

Gupan said the bright spot in the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been the resilience of the Ukrainian people. 

Civilians have fought bravely to protect themselves from Russian aggression.

“We are fighting back,” he said. “We are showing the world that Russia cannot defeat us.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, General News on Tuesday, 1 March 2022 12:41. Updated: Tuesday, 1 March 2022 12:43.