The world watched as Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Since then, millions of Ukrainian refugees—mostly women and children—have evacuated to bordering countries seeking safety. Below, members of the University of Redlands community offer reflections and perspectives on the war and the ensuing humanitarian crisis.
“The invasion of Ukraine is horrific—but war isn’t new. It’s only been 30 years since we last saw destruction like this in Europe during the Balkan Wars, and we know that conflicts abound across the globe. What makes this so distinctive is the bald aggression with which Putin attacked Ukraine—it was unprovoked, and Ukraine’s citizens are now suffering horribly within its borders and now displaced across Europe. As we watch, we need to remember that democracy can’t be taken for granted, human rights are not secure, and that refugee status is something done to you—not something you deserve based on where you’re born or what you look like.”
—Steve Wuhs, senior international officer and interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
“With hope that the pandemic would continue to diminish, 2022 was to be a year of renewed in-person engagement with students and faculty from the Kyiv National Economic University (KNEU)—our partner university in Kyiv. One Ukrainian student just completed my Strategy Capstone course finishing, without seeking special treatment, her final assignments while sheltering in western Ukraine. Several Ukrainian students were anticipating travel this summer to Redlands to attend our courses in the joint MBA program. A group from KNEU was preparing to participate in a two-week International Summer Seminar in July that had been postponed for the last two years. The program would begin at the Marin campus with events focused on the San Francisco/Silicon Valley business environment and then travel to the Redlands main campus for a series of lectures and site visits on the U.S. economy and American business practices. KNEU and I were anticipating my return to Kyiv in September in the context of a six-month Fulbright scholar grant. Instead, I am calling friends in Ukraine to see if they are safe and hear first-hand accounts of artillery barrages and evacuation ordeals.
My experience with KNEU students and colleagues reveals that the Ukrainian people are hopeful, spirited, amiable individuals engaged in a determined process of bettering themselves and advancing their society. In its own small way, the cooperation between the University of Redlands and KNEU exemplifies the intellectual openness and global engagement that leaders in the Kremlin find frightening. While Putin’s fears are lethal and his invasion can interrupt the progress that Ukraine has achieved, it cannot impede the Ukrainian desire to be a part of the wider world. We should hope for a quick resumption of conditions in which KNEU can continue, in peace, its mission of educating generations of Ukraine’s students. And we at the University of Redlands will be there to help.”
—Gerald Groshek, professor in the School of Business & Society
“I think Ukraine must be supported in all its efforts to defend itself against Russia while still ensuring that all within its borders are treated fairly, regardless of their race or ethnic background. Amidst the chaos and destruction of this war in Ukraine, and because of Russia's imperialistic aggression, an age-old problem has reared its head once again—racism. Many of us have seen some news coverage contrasting what is happening in Ukraine to what has happened in the Middle East or in Africa; when they say they can’t believe this is happening in a ‘civilized’ European country to ‘middle-class’ people, I can’t help but be disappointed and dismayed. The mainstream media are now picking up on the ugly truth that while the world shows concern and compassion for Ukrainians, some [Ukrainian-born people] are showing zero compassion for [immigrants and other citizens] who are also seeking to escape. We can do both—support Ukraine and all its people trying to flee death and destruction.”
—Peter Tupou, associate director of Campus Diversity and Inclusion
“Austria has always felt rather insulated and safe—it's a neutral, relatively wealthy country in the middle of Europe—but the war in Ukraine has shaken that sense in a way that even the pandemic did not. Although we are far from the conflict, neighboring countries are facing a refugee crisis. In response, our students have collected supplies to send to the Ukrainian border with a local aid organization. It's a moment, I think, for us to reflect on the values of studying abroad and what it means to be a responsible global citizen.”
—Katherine Baber, professor, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and director of the international campus in Salzburg
“My Jewish grandfather fled Ukraine in the 1920s at gunpoint with the clothes on his back. He survived [World War II] simply because somebody hated him enough before the Holocaust. Yes, all my academic training in cultural studies is helping me understand the ravages of power and decimation in Ukraine: the geopolitical conditions that gave rise to the invasion; the narrative reductionism casting a ‘good man’ against an ‘evil’ one; and the racist double standards that train our ‘shocked’ attention on predominantly white refugees. But I keep thinking about my grandfather, so I’m going to call my cousin and get her to tell me stories of our Zayde.”
—Allison Fraiberg, professor in the School of Business & Society
“The direct human suffering and mass migration as a consequence of the war is far and away the most important issue to focus on. In my classroom, we are also discussing the importance of the financial sanctions which the United States and Europe have placed on Russia. Of greatest significance here is the freezing of the so-called ‘hard currency’ reserves of the Russian central bank—which will significantly impact Russia’s ability to defend its currency and pay for key imports and make debt service payments. Beyond the technical details, these sanctions raise two important issues we are continuing to tackle in our class: the role of the Federal Reserve in managing a global dollar system, and the degree to which financial and economic integration—globalization—lead to stability and cooperation in international relations.”
—Nathaniel Cline, professor of economics
“My relatives are living in Ukraine and Russia, my grandparents are from Ukraine but moved to a Russian university back in 1969 for their bachelor’s degrees. Back then, it was the USSR and no Russia or Ukraine existed. They didn’t want to leave their homes but needed a degree.
For the last 20 years, I was visiting my relatives in Ukraine and Russia every year. Most of my family members are living in Ukraine and we are calling each other daily. Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Belarus always had mixed families for hundreds of years because it is one land.
My whole family hasn’t slept for the last 10 days—my relatives in Ukraine are forced to hide in subway stations and in basements, with small babies and old people. It is very uncomfortable; the situation is painful, and we are all crying every day.”
—Mikhail Mikhalev ‘23, College of Arts and Sciences student
“Younger generations of non-immigrant Americans have thus far escaped a general draft and possess virtually no referents for large-scale and unprovoked war, so the looming prospect of this aggression spilling across borders or morphing into a nuclear conflict feels alarming. We've been talking in Intro to American Politics about the concept of national sovereignty and what it means to build a government based on consent of the governed, all the while asking what it means to be a democracy, whether that's here at home or abroad.
This conflict also highlights U.S. cultural biases towards Europeans as sympathetic targets and as victims of authoritarian aggression, and this war has received vastly more coverage than other equally devastating and recent wars around the world. Ukrainian refugees are likely to be welcomed differently than Syrians, Afghans, or even South or Central Americans who are fleeing repressive regimes— an issue we're examining in our Immigration Politics class.
This destabilizing act also represents a direct challenge to the post-World War II border regime, setting into motion a chain of events that will produce unanticipated consequences for the world's geopolitical and economic order.”
—Renee Van Vechten, professor of political science
“I think Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the latest in Europe’s continuing struggles with megalomaniacs. This pattern is a legacy of the Roman Empire, and the continent is still trying to solve the problem of mutual coexistence. The European continent is the most blood-soaked of all. The great danger here is that now this conflict has the potential to destroy us all.”
—Conroy Reynolds, professor in the School of Education
“This conflict brought the community together for us to discuss during our weekly Monday Prayers for Peace. While most of us are privileged enough to not have a stake in the situation, there are students who have family in the affected areas and my heart and prayers go out to them and their loved ones. I would also like to use this as a reminder that we must share this heartfelt sentiment to not just those in Europe. We often ignore other humanitarian crises currently going on in the world because [the people effected] do not look or live like us. There are many suffering in Yemen, South America, Asia, and other countries that we are not recognizing despite them needing our help and prayers.”
—Gabriel Olivares ’22, College of Arts and Sciences student and Campus Diversity and Inclusion interfaith intern
Learn more about the crisis in Ukraine via the United Nations; donate to the International Committee of the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders.