LAWRENCE, Kan. – Friday night marked one year since Russia began invading Ukraine after weeks of raising troops along the border.
Professor KU Vitaly Chernetsky is from Ukraine and his father still lives in Odessa which was one of the targets of the Russian army in the early days of the fighting.
“Many of us have had terrifying scenarios of really brutal Russian forces engulfing Ukraine,” Chernetsky said. “It didn’t happen.”
Instead, Chernetsky says the Ukrainians proved Russian talking points wrong, displaying their strong national identity while holding off waves of Russian soldiers. Chernetsky is in the UK on Friday evening to give a speech in Cambridge on how Ukraine has changed the perception of the international community and its own citizens.
“It has really transformed Ukrainian people in how they feel about themselves, about their country, about their place in the world and about their resolve,” Chernetsky said.
Chernetsky says he will continue to travel and speak outside Ukraine sharing his perspective on the war.
We first spoke to Weston resident Paul Schwennesen when he was in Kiev, where he used his military training to deliver equipment to frontline fighters and brought back what he said was evidence of war crimes.
Now he’s working with an NGO and the United Nations to help document those crimes for when the war is over.
When the first attacks began, a group from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes were visiting from Ukraine and stuck in the United States, eventually settling in Kansas City much of the time.
Now Andriy Kravtsov is back in Kiev, delivering donated sports equipment for the organization’s programming and also learning how to operate in a war zone.
“I’m walking in and they explain to me how to go to the bunker or how to protect yourself and stay within the walls and they just give me an education about simple things that people have already gone through, but I haven’t,” Kravtsov said. “[The people he’s staying with] have two kids and the kids talk like, ‘Oh, it’s not a big deal when rockets are flying through, it’s not a big deal when there’s a big drone flying over your house.
Meanwhile, his organization is trying to set up sports camps for the children of many people who are fighting against the Russians or who died in battle.
On Monday evening, the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine plays at the Leid Center in Lawrence.