Solidarity with Ukraine

By James Baratta ’22, March 11, 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine: analysis, reflection and discussion

The world is watching Ukraine, and so is the Ithaca College community.  

On March 3, Ithaca College students, faculty and staff gathered in Williams 323 and on Zoom to better understand the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as its impacts on Ukrainian national students currently attending IC. The room was full beyond capacity and nearly 400 additional people, including alumni, attended virtually via Zoom.

Daria Karpenko ’23, a Ukrainian national, whose family is still in Ukraine, had been in touch with relatives in Dnipro, which is roughly two hours away from the besieged city of Kharkiv.

“I was on the phone with my dad yesterday,” she said, clearly emotional yet somehow composed. “He told me that [my siblings] miss me very much.”

Members of the audience were sniffling while Karpenko held back tears, telling her story.

“Organizing the discussion was the least we could do. It’s still hard to process and realize that this is happening back home in Ukraine. By sharing our stories, we were able to educate people about the war and cope with the situation, honestly.”

Daria Karpenko ’23

Karpenko, along with her close friend Yuliia Shcherbak ’22 who is also from Ukraine, organized the event with the help of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF), the Department of History and Zenon Wasyliw, professor of history, and Diana Dimitrova, director of International Student and Scholar Services and International Programs and Extended Studies.

“We want to do as much as we can to support our people, and organizing the discussion was the least we could do,” she said. “It’s still hard to process and realize that this is happening back home in Ukraine. By sharing our stories, we were able to educate people about the war and cope with the situation, honestly.”

Shcherbak, who is from Kyiv, attended her sophomore year at IC virtually while at home in Ukraine  

“I finished two years in one because I was taking classes online during summer and I spent almost the whole fall semester back home,” she said. “Today, we shipped the humanitarian help. This is all we can do.”

Shcherbak’s family recently managed to find shelter outside of the city.

Wasyliw, a specialist in Soviet, Ukrainian and global history, provided critical global context for the conflict, highlighting that Ukraine has been fighting to maintain its sovereignty and independence for hundreds of years. He chronicled the extensive history of this struggle before criticizing Putin’s autocracy and shifting the discussion to contemporary Ukrainian politics — connecting the past with the present.

“There's been an opening up towards a civic identity, not based on strictly ethnic identity, but a more tolerant multiethnic civic identity” Wasyliw said. “[President] Zelenskyy, a Russian-speaking person of Jewish background from the southern part of Ukraine... really expresses this idea of civic Ukrainian identity.”

Attendees such as Autumn Michels ’22, a politics major with a concentration in international studies, said that the event was crucial to further understanding the impact of the war.

“Living in the United States, I am completely dissociated with the violence in this war and merely watch from afar,” she said. “This discussion was important because it put a face to the impact that this war has.”

“It’s important for us to understand that there are students who are not from the United States and come from countries that are currently in a crisis ... We need to hear them out and listen to what they have to say because that representation matters at Ithaca College.”

Sebastian Chavez ’22

Wasyliw echoed the sentiments, while praising students like Karpenko.

“Daria represents the voice of millions of Ukrainians,” he said. “Very brave and united in facing a humanitarian crisis and challenge to earned personal and civic freedoms threatened by an unprovoked and brutal Russian military invasion.”

Sebastian Chavez ’22, a politics major with a concentration in international studies, expressed that he felt grateful to have access to a space where students can express themselves.

“It’s important for us to understand that there are students who are not from the United States and come from countries that are currently in a crisis — whether that be war, whether that be political or economic [crises],” he said. “We need to hear them out and listen to what they have to say because that representation matters at Ithaca College.”

“The event ... empowered Ukrainian students at IC to share their and their loved one’s perspectives on this terrible conflict, and I know I speak for everyone in attendance when I share how moved I was by their harrowing accounts.”

President La Jerne Terry Cornish

President La Jerne Terry Cornish reflected upon the event as well.

“I join with the members of the Ithaca College community who are keeping the Ukrainian people in our thoughts as they face aggression and violence from Russia,” she said. “The college’s March 3 event hosted by Department of History empowered Ukrainian students at IC to share their and their loved one’s perspectives on this terrible conflict, and I know I speak for everyone in attendance when I share how moved I was by their harrowing accounts. I continue to keep the Ukrainian people in my heart and am praying for a swift and peaceful resolution.”