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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has affected many members of the San Diego Mesa College community.
On the morning of February 24, Andy Larkin, a student at Mesa College, woke up to the sound of explosions in his hometown of kyiv. These would document the first attacks of the Russian army against the independent nation of Ukraine. For many Mesa students, Ukraine is home to family and friends who are directly influenced by the recent violence.
As Mesa students and staff boldly share their stories and those of their family and close friends, one feeling is clear: despite the violence, the people and culture of Ukraine are resilient and will not be shaken. Despite the physical distance, it is vital that individuals in the United States support those in Ukraine and provide assistance in any way possible.
Andy Larkin, whose name has been changed for anonymity, described waking up the morning of the first attacks as “one of those fever dreams you’d wake up to and think you were still dreaming”. Larkin’s story is one that many Ukrainians can relate to, waking up to the attacks that continue in Ukraine today.
Ivana Polic, a Croatian native and Mesa PATH Fellowship Program Mentor, expressed concern for several people she knows personally. “The first thing that came to mind was disbelief and fear for Ukrainians,” she said. She also explained how several of her friends who were living in Ukraine at the start of the invasion were able to leave their homes and escape the violence, however, there are still other friends and acquaintances who are staying in various places in the country. . Dr. Inna Kanevsky, professor of psychology at San Diego Mesa College, explained how he grew up in Ukraine. She expressed her deep connection with Ukraine and its culture, considering it her homeland.
As these people spoke of the country that is so dear to them, their families and friends, an overwhelming description of the determination and spirit of Ukrainians became evident. Ukrainian culture is so distinct and bold that the spirit of Ukraine became much more evident during this time. “Even if it happens that the Russians advance and end up occupying Ukraine, I think it will be very expensive for both Russian society and the army, because Ukraine will continue to exist, that whether or not she is physically there on the borders,” Polic said.
Several people from the Mesa community, who have been directly affected by the conflict, explained that the support of the United States is extremely important, not only by sending aid directly to Ukraine, but also by supporting the friends and family members who are in your own communities. Over the past few weeks, many different organizations have offered immediate assistance to the resistance in Ukraine, ranging from artillery support to relocating refugees. For those in a position to help financially, several organizations are currently doing incredible work in Ukraine and surrounding countries. However, even for those unable to help financially, many other forms of help and advocacy exist. House of Ukraine, located in Balboa Park, is currently accepting donations of clothing, sanitary products and infant supplies. On a broader level, government sanctions should have a significant influence in this war.
Since the start of the invasion, Russia has become the most sanctioned country, surpassing even Iran and North Korea, according to Bloomberg. Many believe that by speaking out about the issue, posting it on social media platforms, and letting government leaders know that this is an important issue for Americans, our government and our leaders will be more likely to take steps to offer assistance to Ukraine.
Regarding Mesa and its support, many Ukrainian staff and students feel that the college has not taken enough steps to support and help those affected. “As a university, I haven’t heard anything Mesa has offered, there has been no recognition…there has been no specific support,” Dr. Kanevsky said. Although the college hosted a listening circle, “Mesa Cares” by Student Health Services, it was a singular event that happened on March 7. Chancellor Carlos Cortez, who oversees the three San Diego District colleges, issued a statement to his “colleagues” offering support and directing them to health departments at each of the individual colleges, but he did not there was no other public statements or actions taken by Mesa College.
“Right now it’s not your problem, but in the future, if it’s not stopped now, it will become your problem,” Larkin said. He explained that while the conflict may seem distant to many Americans, the outcome of this war will have an incredible impact not only politically, but economically on world politics and commerce. With such intertwined global trade, the United States and many other countries have already begun to feel the effects of sanctions on Russia and will most likely continue to recognize the impact of the conflict. However, many believe that the consequences of these sanctions are not only necessary, but will benefit the country in further sacrifices if the Russian government continues to take power.
As more countries seek to help Ukraine, this conflict has begun to form a united front against the Russian government. Polic shared his pride in his own home country, Croatia, and their efforts to provide aid. Growing up in Croatia in the 1990s, Polic witnessed Croatia’s independence and compared it to the current conflict. “As much destruction as we can see, I think what keeps me hopeful is all these people stepping in and offering their homes, their food, their shelter, their hearts, because we as a nation (Croatia ), have this collective experience – that war is something that can happen very quickly and people know how to be united in these conditions,” she said.
As members of the Mesa community worry about loved ones still in Ukraine or actively fleeing violence, an ongoing concern is the role the media and other forms of communication are playing in the war. Some people are reluctant to contact loved ones or ask them for too many whereabouts details, as conversations around wiretaps have become increasingly popular.
Russian propaganda and disinformation in Russian media have also been at the forefront of conversations surrounding the role and security of Russian citizens. For many, the reason for the war is still unclear and Russian media is heavily controlled by the government. “It turns out my aunt thinks the Ukrainians are doing the bombing… there are people who believe that,” Dr Kanevsky said.
Over the past few weeks, Russians have lost access to several different social media platforms where they could access media updates and resources from outside the country. Larkin explained how, towards the start of the conflict, a popular messaging platform was inundated with misinformation and dramatic headlines and there was “a lot of polar news”. Polic also shared the story of a friend of hers who lives in Moscow. “She took part in anti-war demonstrations in Moscow. She’s seen people being detained and she’s just feeling very discouraged and thinking about leaving the country, which is also getting harder and harder.
The control of free speech and the consequences of speaking out against the war or the Russian government clearly show the lack of power Russians have in their own country. Putin’s more recent rhetoric causing even more concern for people in Russia speaking out against the government or war efforts. With analogies to Putin himself who spoke of chewing up “scum and traitors” and spitting them out like gnats, as well as an increased effort to attack “false information”. In his recent speech, Putin also said he believed “self-purification” would make the country a stronger and more unified place. Dr. Kanevskey explained that “he does not see himself as an heir to the Soviet state, which was supposedly built in communism, but rather as the Russian Empire…which included, for example, large chunks of what is now Poland and Finland and other places.” She said it was clear to her that Putin intended to restore that Russian empire. Putin’s recent rhetoric began to increase these conversations about the safety of Russians in their own country.
As the conflict in Ukraine continues to escalate, it is ultimately the voices of bold individuals like Polic that will resound: “The Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian spirit will prevail. They are already the winners of this war.
Larkin has created an NFT of a peace flag hoisted on the Fatherland monument in Kyiv, all proceeds will go to Ukraine in the form of cryptocurrency, Click here if you want to buy an NFT.
Dr. Kanevsky has created a page with resources and support links that is constantly updated. Click here to open it.
The Ukrainian house
House of Ukraine is a cultural museum in San Diego, Balboa Park, providing information to the public about the country of Ukraine. Their aim is to promote and cultivate the art, history, customs, language and traditions of Ukraine. They also sponsor educational presentations, demonstrations and events dedicated to Ukrainian culture.
UNICEF is on the ground before, during and after emergencies, working to reach children and families with long-term help and assistance. It works with partners to reach vulnerable children and families with essential services – including health, education, protection, water and sanitation – as well as lifesaving supplies.
the Ukrainian Red Cross assists people in need affected by armed conflict through blood collection, mobilization of volunteers and resources, and emergency activities.
children’s voices, founded in 2015, offers psychological and psychosocial support to children who have suffered as a result of war operations. They are currently helping children across the country and helping with the evacuation process.
Vostok-SOS is a non-governmental organization that helps to find housing for displaced people, to evacuate areas of direct conflict and to distribute humanitarian and physiological aid to people affected by war.