The Fullerton College Honors Program invited the Assistant Director for Intercultural Learning at Virginia Tech lulia Kononenko Hoban as a guest speaker on March 8 to talk with students and faculty about the current situation in Ukraine, how we can help, and ways to cope with the mental distress this invasion is causing everyone.
She was born in newly independent Ukraine and grew up under the shadow of Chernobyl and the totalitarian rule of the USSR over her country. The guest speaker event was held on Zoom with fifty participants. A video recording of the Zoom is available on the Fullerton College YouTube channel HERE.
Jodi Balma, Political Science Professor and Honors Coordinator, started off the event with a brief presentation about the invasion of Ukraine by Russia to give the participants an overview. Dr. Gilbert J. Contreras, Interim President of Fullerton College, also joined the meeting to thank Dr. Hoban for her presence. Dr. Contreras talked about the importance of becoming a support system for each other and speaking up against the war in Ukraine.
According to Dr. Hoban, there are multiple layers of the current situation in Ukraine, depending on the location within the country that Ukrainians reside in. The first layer involves the areas being shelled; they need humanitarian corridors to allow refugees to leave. The general concern of survival is a top priority. The second layer concerns those who are safe but worried about their family and friends who are in dangerous positions. The last layer revolves around the concern of their future—is there a future for the nation and the country?
Dr. Hoban shed light on the generational trauma that exists in Ukraine and the constant threat of the Russian invasion since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Ukraine has seen two famines, World War II, a nuclear disaster, and two revolutions in the past century. This generational trauma and the fear that losing this war means losing sovereignty fuels the strong resistance.
Dr. Hoban said she is currently hoping for the best, but expecting the worse for Ukraine. The response from the world compared to the 2014 Invasion of Crimea is certainly much stronger and so is the acceptance of refugees in Europe. When asked about what Ukraine needs right now, she said, “More military support…. If Ukraine doesn’t continually receive military support, then they will be erased…”
Professor Jodi Balma also emphasized that we need to see the same response to every act of imperial aggression around the world, not just in Europe.
The conversation turned toward mental health and Dr. Hoban shared how she is coping with the situation. She’s focusing on providing help and support in whatever ways she can in order to help Ukrainians. Instead of following the news continuously, she’s choosing to focus on actions she can take to help refugees and those people stuck in the country. Professor Balma and her students shared a resource guide for anyone who wants to understand the conflict better and find out where to donate here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1v5ENPiLa0hpOtJIDRWjtzNBc3KBnRFjLvmbC20M7h_Q/edit?usp=sharing
For her closing statement, Dr. Hoban said that a possible solution to this conflict would start with a ceasefire and then a diplomatic way to save Ukrainian sovereignty while allowing Putin to save face on the international stage. Her hope is that in a year from today, March of 2023, she would want to visit Kyiv again and for all of it to still be standing without fear, and with joy.
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