University flash panel discusses potential outcomes of Russia-Ukraine war

“The only solution is to defeat Putin sooner rather than later,” Taras Dobko, vice-rector of Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) said during a virtual flash panel on the war in Ukraine hosted by the Nanovic Center for European Studies Wednesday afternoon.

Dobko was joined by Law School professor Mary Ellen O’Connell and political science professor Michael Desch in discussing the state of the Ukrainian nation, the international response to the conflict and the end of the war as it enters its second year.

Dobko began by reflecting on the strength and resiliency of the Ukrainian people throughout the war. 

“Ukrainians proved that they could face danger and continue to create art, manufactured goods, learn new things and live human lives,” he said.

The feeling of a distinct Ukrainian identity has increased in the past year, Dobko pointed out, with Russian symbols being removed from public spaces and the use of the Russian language dramatically decreasing.

“Putin has achieved the exact opposite of what he aspired. He is pushing Ukraine into becoming anti-Russian for generations to come,” Dobko said.

Dobko also argued that the war is now entering a new stage and that Ukraine and its allies must adjust their goals accordingly. 

“Against all odds, Ukraine has survived,” he said. “But new uncertainties emerge and cause new worries. Will Ukraine, aided by the West, be able to win and restore its territorial integrity? How to negotiate just peace?”

On the subject of peace talks, Dobko asserted that “85% of Ukranians are not ready for any territorial concessions,” and that the country would continue to fight until it can reclaim the entirety of its occupied land.

O’Connell echoed many of Dobko’s points, stating that the Russian invasion is “the most significant armed conflict since the adoption of the United Nations (UN) Charter in 1945.”

She explained that the war has also caused extreme economic harm globally and within Russia.

“Russia has put the global economic system, the system of human rights and international humanitarian law and the chance to defend the climate and the natural environment, as well as the state system itself, at risk,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell also argued that the complete expulsion of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory is the only acceptable resolution to the war. 

“Ukraine must prevail in this conflict,” O’Connell said. “A Russian defeat of Ukraine, even in the short run, will only introduce more chaos in the world than anything we have seen in the first year of the war.”

Desch, on the other hand, offered a point of view more critical of Ukraine and its prospects of victory.

“For many in the West, it’s clear-cut, black and white. Putin is bad, the Russians are deluded and Ukraine is completely on the side of the angels,” he said.

While there is “some truth to that,” Desch argued it’s not that simple.

Desch attacked Ukraine’s high levels of corruption and questioned both the intentions and the durability of the Ukrainian nationalist movement. 

“The level of corruption in the Ukrainian government remains astronomically high,” Desch said, adding that recent firings of corrupt government officials is “just the tip of the iceberg.”

Desch was also critical of Dobko’s touting of the decreasing use of the Russian language in Ukraine.

“A lot of the impetus behind the decreasing use of Russian in the public space has been a result of coercive policies of the Ukrainian government, including laws passed restricting the teaching of Russian,” he said.

Turning to the end of the war, Desch argued that “the strategic situation is largely a stalemate and will remain a stalemate.”

He said he thinks the United States must broker peace talks, with the only two realistic outcomes from such negotiations being the partition or neutralization of the country.

Dobko pushed back on this idea, placing the blame for the war on Russia.

Although the situation in Ukraine remains perilous for Ukrainian sovereignty, Dobko expressed a sense of optimism about his country’s fate.

“There is a strong feeling that we are making some kind of history and can shape our future,” he said.

Contact Liam at


The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s education

Mahatma Gandhi once said,“If we are to reach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children.” If we are to begin with the children, we are to begin with their education. A quality education contributes not only to socioeconomic progress, but also to the holistic development of the individual. I think that many, like myself, would agree with this philosophy on education — there is much more to it than training for the workforce. Still, Gandhi’s proposition begs the question: Can the education of children truly build peace? Fortunately, it can; accessible and quality education can serve as the keystone of peace within a society and ultimately, the world.

I grew up being told that my education was a privilege, not a right —that I should be grateful to have attended highly-rated public schools meant to prepare me for a successful career and a life of financial security. While I am certainly privileged to have received a quality education, I now believe that a good education is, in fact, a right. In 1948, education was recognized as a basic human right by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This means that the right to education is legally guaranteed for all, that states are obligated to protect and fulfill this right and that they can be held accountable for violating it. In my first year at Notre Dame, I gained the ability to articulate what my education means to me, as well as what it can mean for the world’s youth. If every child was able to complete secondary education, UNESCO data shows that globally, the number of poor people could be reduced by more than half. Universal access to quality education is an urgent need, but committed changemakers are needed to create a tangible impact.

I feel called to defend the right to education because I recognize the value of my own educational opportunities. Above all else, I believe that education produces hope. Confucius once said, “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” My education has given me the confidence to ask difficult questions, offer my perspective and engage in discussions with experts in the field. My professors at Notre Dame have encouraged me to brainstorm innovative solutions to elusive issues, such as world peace. Drawing on John Paul Lederach’s “The Moral Imagination,” peacebuilding requires “innovative responses to impossible situations.” In the hope of creating a better future, we must step into the unknown that exists between what is and what is possible without the guarantee of success.

I live one mile away from Paterson, New Jersey, a city with a rich history dating back to its days as a mighty industrial capital. The city, though still diverse and heavily populated, is now characterized by violence, crime and drugs. I noticed educational disparities from a young age, but these disparities were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools were forced to shut down. During the early days of the pandemic, the public high school dropout rate in Paterson was at an all-time high. The same resources that were provided to me — sufficient school funding, experienced teachers, textbooks and technologies — were not distributed to students living in Paterson. As my peers struggled to transition to online platforms and learn how to navigate Zoom, few realized that schools in our own county lacked the resources and capacity to even offer virtual classes. Disparities in education are present in my own community — the same disparities that impact children globally. If Paterson was used as a case study, there would undoubtedly be connections between quality of education and participation in crime and violence. Ingrained within me early on was the value of my education; it was something to be taken seriously and never for granted. Still, I have grappled with the educational discrepancies to which I have borne witness and have been empowered to search for a solution.

Anyone can be a peacebuilder, and everyone should be. Throughout my life, I have always wanted to change the world for the better, and now I am able to express my “why” (or more specifically, my “who”). I believe that children are the future; at a minimum, education creates opportunities for the future parents, leaders and changemakers of the world to determine their own paths. A quality education offers career enhancement, employment opportunities and higher earnings, and studies show that education helps reduce attitudes toward participation in violence. This is likely because a quality education encourages the development of communication skills (a critical key to conflict resolution), effective collaboration and sociopolitical participation, especially for women. As peacebuilders, our ultimate duty is to the global common good, consisting of economic prosperity, social justice and peace. Our ultimate duty is to the most vulnerable members of society, as well as those previously excluded from shaping their futures. In our increasingly globalized world, it is important to recognize our shared responsibility to protect human rights everywhere.

After all, “Violence is known; peace is the mystery.” At Notre Dame, we are imaginative and creative individuals; we must be willing to step into the unknown that exists between what is and what is possible. We must boldly question the status quo — to understand why things are as they are and attempt to make them better.

Ashlyn Poppe is a sophomore living in Pasquerilla West Hall studying global affairs and political science. She currently serves as the director of operations for BridgeND.

BridgeND is a multi-partisan political club committed to bridging the partisan divide through respectful and productive discourse. It meets on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. in Duncan Student Center W246 to learn about and discuss current political issues and can be reached at or on Twitter @bridge_ND.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


Ukrainian exchange students discuss their Notre Dame semester

In August, 10 students embarked on a long journey taking them from the Eastern Europe to the middle of Indiana.

Olha Droniak, a junior from Ivano-Frankivsk, a town about two hours away from Lviv, recalled being very excited about arriving at Notre Dame, but very exhausted by the travel. 

“Because of the war, we don’t have flights, and the sky is closed,” Droniak explained. The group took a 10-hour bus ride into Poland, then flew from Poland to Germany, Germany to Chicago and finally Chicago to South Bend.

This semester, the University of Notre Dame hosted 10 exchange students from Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU), which is located in Lviv in Western Ukraine. Notre Dame and UCU have an almost 20-year old partnership, and University President Fr. John Jenkins announced the addition of the exchange program last May.

Droniak, like other undergraduate exchange students, lives in a dorm on campus. Droniak lives with Sofiia Kyba, a senior exchange student from Lviv, in Howard Hall. Kyba and Droniak said they love Howard and the dorm community on campus. 

“Although Howard is one of the oldest dorms on campus, as far as I know, I’ve found it very cozy. I like that it’s not so big, so it’s easier to get to know people,” Kyba said.

Olena Tsyhankova, also senior from Lviv, lives in Lewis Hall. Because of a combination of the pandemic and the war, Tsyhankova said that this is her first “normal” semester at university. 

“I never lived in a dorm before, and now I have five roommates,” Tsyhankova said. “But also because of those roommates, the experience is awesome. We are all friends now.”

Though they are all different majors, the undergraduate Ukrainian students are taking classes at Notre Dame suited to their academic interests. Tsyhankova, for example, is a cultural studies major at UCU, and she focuses on art and religious studies. She is currently preparing for finals for classes like Asian Spirituality and Drawing. Tsyhankova is also involved in Archery and Outing Club and conducting research on the new religious movement in the U.S.

Kyba is studying Business Analytics at UCU and taking classes related to both finance and computer science at Notre Dame. Her most notable memory from the semester, though, was the first football game.

“I knew that everyone was looking forward to football games . . . and I was like: ‘Why are you so excited?’ But when the first game happened, that was unforgettable,” Kyba explained.

Droniak said that the semester has flown by, as she has stayed busy with her political science courses and meeting Notre Dame students. 

“I’m very happy that now I’m in this community of good people. I feel that when I communicate with American students and professors, I gain a lot of positive energy from that,” Droniak said.

However, even though they have all enjoyed their time at Notre Dame, the war in Ukraine looms over their head.

“Home doesn’t really feel like home . . . Since [Feb. 24], it’s just been weird to be home,” Tsyhankova said.

On Feb. 24, the day Russia launched its attack on Ukraine, Tsyhankova tried to escape Ukraine on foot with her mother, brother and dog. They got caught in a stampede after a group of students tried to push on the border gate and a frenzy ensued. Tsyhankova said that she knows some people died in the stampede, although her family escaped and started walking back to their home.

“From 3 p.m. to 4 a.m., we were walking in one direction, and from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m., we were walking in another direction [until] some men picked us up and brought us to the bus station,” Tsyhankova said. Her family then spent four months with her godmother in Spain, and then Tsyhankova attended summer school in Croatia. She returned to Ukraine for a month before leaving for Notre Dame.

“I wake up every day being really scared that something happened to my family, so that’s the scariest part because you don’t know when or under what conditions you will see them again,” Tsyhankova said.

Kyba said the hardest part of moving away from Ukraine during the war is not having information on what’s happening. She recalled a time in October when she woke up at 5 a.m. to a bunch of texts from her friends asking each other if they were alright. 

“That was a massive attack, and I couldn’t reach my family because the connection was bad. And I was just sitting near my room and trying to call my parents to find out whether they are okay,” Kyba said.

Droniak noted that due to the war, many young adults had to grow up fast.

“War makes all Ukranians adults very soon. Children and young people have to be very responsible for their families, and they have to be proactive citizens.” Droniak said and expressed how she has appreciated the opportunity to just be a student at Notre Dame.

The Ukrainian Society of Notre Dame hosted a panel discussion in September where five UCU students spoke about their experiences in Ukraine. Droniak and Kyba both spoke and were touched by how many people were curious about their lives.

“I was surprised that people were really interested in us, and I just realized, another time, that people here care about that,” Kyba said.

Droniak also urged Notre Dame students to continue caring about the war, even as the invasion enters its ninth month.

“[Don’t] be indifferent to problems that are outside your country,” she added.

Droniak emphasized how thankful she was for the opportunity and her intentions heading back home.

“We all are grateful to the administration of Notre Dame that they gave us this opportunity, and we will use this knowledge to the best of our abilities to rebuild Ukraine after the war,” Droniak said.

Contact Katie Muchnik at