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‘It’s not over’: Ukrainians, professors shed light on ongoing conflict in Ukraine

Co-president of the Ukrainian Society at Notre Dame and senior Maryna Chuma stated in simple terms what she feels Notre Dame students should know about the war in Ukraine.

“It’s not over,” she said.

The Ukrainian Society was initially founded in order to celebrate Ukrainian culture on campus, but since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, it has shifted its focus toward advocacy and spreading awareness about the war. About a week after the six-month anniversary of the invasion, Chuma said the war continues to have a major impact.

“It’s still very real for the Ukrainian people and for the allies around the world,” she said. 

On Wednesday, the Nanovic Institute hosted a flash panel focusing on the current state of affairs in Ukraine as told by eyewitnesses. Multiple panelists stressed that the war is still ongoing and continues to upend the lives of the Ukrainian people. 

Panelist Dmytro Sherengovsky, a vice-rector at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU), spoke about how life in Ukraine has become increasingly uncertain as a result of the war. Sherengovsky said he has stopped planning more than a year in advance for UCU because he does not know what the country will look like in a year.

Despite the uncertainty, he said Ukrainians continue to hold out hope that they can win the war and rebuild a more fair and successful state.

“Nevertheless, Ukrainians are dreaming about the future,” he said.

As the war has raged on, countries including the U.S. have imposed economic sanctions on Russia. Notre Dame international affairs professor A. James McAdams said the Russian economy has managed to withstand the sanctions thus far.

“Russians have been very shrewd at how they’ve managed them to an extent they managed before this particular invasion of Ukraine. They clearly took into account the possibility of some sanctions and protected themselves ahead of time,” McAdams said. 

Certain American cultural staples, such as McDonald’s, have left Russia in response to the invasion. McAdams is doubtful this gesture will do anything to change Russian sentiments. 

“Russia is a very different place without McDonald’s and other companies, but I think to focus on something like that has to miss the fact that most Russians are squarely behind this conflict,” he said.

Although the sanctions have thus far failed to make a major impact on Russia, McAdams said the military aid sent to Ukraine by the U.S. and other nations has proven to be effective. He said the support the U.S. and other allies have provided has allowed Ukrainians to keep fighting and, in some cases, even regain territory.

Ukrainian Society officer and sophomore Marko Gural explained the role military aid, especially rocket systems and missiles, have played in slowing the Russian offensive and allowing Ukrainian forces to regain territory. 

“Ukraine started to gain lots of rocket systems and military weapons from the United States for the most part, but also from other European allies. What this has done is first of all, obviously, it’s hurt the Russians in frontline position, but it’s also allowed the Ukrainians to launch some rockets into Russian territory or Russian controlled territory,” Gural said. 

Gural noted that Russian forces were stalled, but he finds it unlikely there will be a swift end to the war. 

“It does seem like the Ukrainians might be trying to push forward again,” he said. “It doesn’t really seem like peace talks are anywhere close to even starting.”

The media devoting less coverage to the war in Ukraine is a cause for concern, Gural said. 

“I think probably personally, for me, the most troubling thing over the past couple of months has been seeing that internet mentions or internet searches, in particular, have gone down concerning the war,” he said. 

Chuma also expressed frustration with the change in media coverage. 

“It is very frustrating, as someone [who is] part of the Ukrainian diaspora, to see the headline kind of getting lost among other headlines,” she said.