On Feb. 24, after weeks of intensifying rhetoric, Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated the largest military conflict on European soil since World War II by launching a large-scale invasion into Ukraine. In six days of fighting, Russia’s operation has already claimed over 400 civilian lives and ravaged numerous Ukrainian cities with airstrikes, artillery, and mechanized forces. Some 660,000 refugees have already fled the country, and international organizations estimate that as many as five million more may follow.
Putin, amplified by a vast infrastructure of state-backed media, repeatedly claims that the unilateral invasion is justified. He asserts that Russia must address existential threats posed by its neighbor, insisting he deployed his forces for a mission of “demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine.” As President Biddy Martin said in a Feb. 8 email to the college community, these allegations are “an offense against reason and truth.”
As the college’s administration has noted, the Amherst community has an obligation to support Ukrainian and Russian students on our campus, who are deeply and personally affected by the ongoing war. Ukrainian students are under an enormous strain right now as they worry about the safety of their friends and families back home, while Russian students have received hate for what is being done in their country’s name. It is a given that they must be supported now more than ever before in regards to academic and extracurricular responsibilities.
The Student interviewed Ukrainian students to better understand and publicize their experiences of being away from their country during this conflict. During the interviews, many Ukrainian students expressed a similar sentiment: though they feel supported on an individual level by the students, staff, faculty, and administration, they do not feel the same sentiment of support from the community towards their country. As a result, Ukrainian students reported feeling as though they have been left alone with the burden of mobilizing support for Ukraine. While many of us cannot share the experience of fearing for the safety of our families and the very existence of our country right now, we can help shoulder the burden faced by Ukrainian students. We must acknowledge that the way to support Ukrainian students right now is to support Ukraine.
Our college community should take steps to support Ukraine not just for the sake of Ukrainian students, but for the sake of our collective ideals. The Russo-Ukrainian war has significant geopolitical consequences for the rest of the world. The Ukrainian people face the existential threat of their state’s destruction and an era of immense human suffering in Europe. Right now, civilians are dying in an unprovoked war as an autocrat tries to expand his empire and undermine the sovereignty of a democratic state.
Our community can take concrete action to support Ukraine in several ways. As useful as they are, the college can do more than provide educational resources for students on campus and extend support for Ukrainian students. It can reach out to alumni networks and urge those involved in politics and legislation to engage in the current conflict by crafting policy and legislation in support of Ukraine and its citizens. It can donate at a scale and level of effectiveness impossible for any individual to match, and publicize its cause to solicit donations from alumni. And it can advocate for students, faculty, and alumni, alike, to participate in social and humanitarian efforts.
There are also action items that we as students can take to support our Ukrainian students and Ukrainian democracy. As individuals we can continue to stay up to date on the news through reliable, unbiased sources. We can donate to organizations doing work on the ground in Ukraine, whether military, humanitarian, or material (through things like care packages sent to refugees). We can put pressure on our elected officials to support Ukraine, and let them know that Ukraine matters to us and should matter to them.
We could also collectively organize protests showing support for Ukraine, as many cities and universities have around the world, or host a group-fundraising event. There are a multitude of options — we just have to actually do them rather than resign ourselves to sharing a donation link on our Instagram stories and thinking that we’ve done our part.
The Amherst community has a duty to support Ukraine. It’s time to actually take action.
Unsigned editorials represent the views of the majority of the Editorial Board — (assenting: 19; dissenting: 0; abstaining: 0).