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Holding Ties or Cutting Ties — Russia-Ukraine War’s Effect on Students

By Faith Chapman

Demonstrators in London at a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine (via Reuters/John Sibley)

Since the start of Russia's present invasion of Ukraine, approximately 2,685 civilian casualties, as of March 24, 2022, have been reported.

This war has created animosity towards Russia around the world and is affecting people's lives even if they aren't in Russia and Ukraine or have Russian or Ukrainian relations. This animosity shows in the boycotting of Russian businesses in the U.S., such as a restaurant, called "Russian Samovar,” in Manhattan, which reported that business had dropped 60% since the war started.

Alex Belyaninov, a senior studying history, has family both in Russia and Ukraine.

"My grandma and uncle are in Moscow, Russia and we have Ukrainian relatives who live in Kyiv and Bila Tserkva," said Belyaninov.

Having ties to both Ukraine and Russia worries Belyaninov due to the fact he has a Russian last name and is able to speak the language. Belyaninov added, "I also have deep fears of anti-Russian sentiment in the U.S."

Since the rise of the war, there has been a rise of anti-Russian sentiments across the world and in the United States, according to The New York Times' article Soviet Bloc Immigrants Rethink Their Identity Amid Russia-Ukraine War - The New York Times

Belyaninov emphasises, "There’s a difference between the Russian people and the government.”

The war in Ukraine has also affected Garrett Mosblech, a junior studying dance who was adopted from the country with his younger sister. Mosblech's family was planning to visit Ukraine to show Mosblech and his sister where they were from.

"My mom wanted to take me and my sister to Ukraine to find our biological families and to explore and learn about what a beautiful country it is," said Mosblech.

“This war creates a disruption in international relations,” said Christian Bailey, a professor in the history department who primarily teaches courses on modern European history. “I think one of the starting assumptions with politics after 1989 is that Russia and the West worked properly together and the trade would bring Russia closer culturally and politically.

"Russia has extensive economic links with Europe and the U.S., but that hasn't brought up political conversion,” he continued. “So, that's one big change, free trade and so on will not bring upon peace. Europe puts itself in war readiness and that's shocking."

Bailey also expressed the point that there were deeper cultural ties that go back centuries.

“It's hard to decide if it has to do with Russian domestic politics and international politics,” said Bailey. “Is Russia fearing NATO expansion? My sense is that [to Putin], the Soviet Union really works; the collapse of the Soviet Union is a national humiliation for Russia as Putin sees it."

While the war is in Ukraine, those in other countries that neighbors Russia have their own fears.

Mik Grendze, a senior studying arts management who is Latvian, said, "It affects me a lot. Basically Ukraine is Russia’s first target but Latvia has been seen as a target. And all the neighboring countries surrounding Russia are also seen as targets rather than allies."

Grendze also brings up his worry about people not taking the situation as seriously as they should.

"I’m more or less scared that people are not taking it as seriously as they should be,” he said. “This should be for any type of invasion. It happened in Palestine. Free Palestine. Ukraine is the big tipping point.”

Belyaninov said that spreading awareness about the war is very important because he believes there are a limited number of Russian students on campus.

"Maybe a panel with Russian, Russian-American, and Ukrainian students on the conflict would be a good thing to get our voices out there," he said. "It would really help get our voices out there."

Mosblech, adding to what Purchase can do about the war, said, “I think that Purchase should do a fundraiser of some sort to help spread awareness of the evolving humanitarian crisis that is happening and the war on innocent lives. The resilience of Ukrainian people is what makes me proud to be a Ukrainian."



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