Everything Lancs students should know about Ukraine from a Ukrainian student

‘Most probably it is only the beginning of war’

The Tab Lancaster recently reached out to Ukrainian Lancs PhD student Lidia Kuzemska, who spoke to us about her opinions and experiences with Ukraine. What follows are her own words.

‘Ukraine is my home country, and I am proud of it’

I was born just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and my first conscious years were when the independent Ukrainian state – proclaimed in August 1991 – was making its first steps.

I am part of what we call the “independence generation” of people – now in their 20s and 30s – for whom the Ukrainian state is the natural order of things they grew up with.  

Photo from LU Lithuanian Society’s anti-war protest on February 25

Even though thirty years for a state seems like a short period historically, it was an intense process with its ups and downs, successes, and failures. Slow and painful market reforms, corruption and dependency on oil and gas from Russia were slowing Ukraine down.

At the same time, its vibrant civil society, highly educated citizens and strong demand for democracy and the rule of law were pushing the country forward. Step by step, Ukraine was moving closer to the Euro-Atlantic community in their political and economic preferences until the EU and NATO membership became part of the country’s ambition declared in the Constitution.   

‘Millions of Ukrainians remain in the areas of active military actions’

Ukraine is the biggest European country in terms of territory and is home to almost 40 million people.   

The Russian-Ukrainian war started in 2014 when the Putin regime occupied the Crimean Peninsula and some territories of the Eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas. This simmering military conflict brought 14 000 deaths and displaced 1.4 million people within Ukraine for the last eight years.

On the night of February 24, 2022, the Russian army encircling Ukraine from three sides (North, East and South) for the last couple of weeks started the invasion after hundreds of missiles targeted various military objects across the country.

A poster from the Lancaster anti-war protest on Friday

The heavy fighting has been ongoing for the last five days on all fronts. The Ukrainian regular army and territorial defence forces are holding their positions to prevent the advancement of the occupying army. Hundreds of thousands of civilians fled to Western Ukraine. Some of them went further to seek safety in neighbouring Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova, and Romania.

Millions of Ukrainians remain in the areas of active military actions. In four days, 352 people died, including 14 children. 1684 are wounded, including 116 children, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health on the evening of February 27.  

‘Most probably it is only the beginning of war’

The Putin regime actively targets critical and civilian infrastructure, including petrol and gas storages, ponds, hospitals, even kindergartens, to cause panic and undermine popular support for the Ukrainian resistance.

Missiles and bombs target residential areas of cities with millions of inhabitants. Tanks and armoured vehicles are trying to enter major cities or encircle them to cut supplies of food and medicine and prevent the evacuation of civilians.  

Most probably, it is only the beginning of the war. The political goals of this invasion are not limited to Ukraine; it is only the first target. That is why support to Ukraine and Ukrainians mean support to its neighbours and the international political order challenged by Putin with unilateral border changes, annexations of other states’ territories, and the threat of using nuclear weapons.  

‘The world is standing with them’

Ukrainians need all the support you can give – moral, symbolic, political, financial.

I am in contact with my friends in the capital Kyiv. Due to heavy artillery and missiles launched on civilian infrastructure and residential areas, they spend their nights in the metro, now used as a bomb shelter.

They all say the same. It is invaluable to see the images and footage of rallies in support of Ukraine across the world. It is encouraging to watch foreign politicians finally taking bold steps against the Putin regime under pressure from their citizens – people like you – who demand solidarity with Ukraine. These actions help boost the morale of Ukrainians in the frontline and in shelters. They know they are not alone; the world is standing with them.  


LUSU International Officer Sonja Dembo’s statement on Ukraine. Source: @lancastersu

‘Every small step counts’

War comes at a huge cost. Depending on your political stance and resources, you can choose to support the Ukrainian military, Ukrainian civilians in acute and urgent humanitarian need inside the country, or Ukrainian refugees (so far around 400 thousand people) fleeing bombs, tanks, and occupying forces.

Whatever you choose to do – every small step counts. Every single pound, every blue and yellow sign, every hug, or a phone call to your Ukrainian friends. Do it even if you don’t know what to say. Just be present and show they are not alone.  

‘There are no checks and balances’

Today, Ukraine is facing large-scale military aggression launched by the Putin regime, whose aim is to occupy and politically control the country, expel, or silence all those who would oppose his actions. Putin is shielding his actions by the threat of using nuclear weapons if NATO interferes militarily in Ukraine. The situation is extremely dangerous for the whole world.   

There are no checks and balances within the Putin regime, no counterweight that might prevent the worst-case scenario from happening if one man takes a wrong decision. The Russian political opposition and civil society were dismantled over the last twenty years – jailed, exiled or killed.

Attendees at LU Lithuanian Soc’s anti-war protest

Russian citizens have increasingly limited access to alternative sources of information other than the warmongering state propaganda. State repressions towards its citizens with different opinions are what the Putin regime is built on.

‘Ukraine cannot stop the war alone’

Nevertheless, in the last few days, we’ve seen anti-war declarations from Russian NGOs, doctors, teachers, IT companies, economists, artists; ordinary Russians across the country organise anti-war rallies, severely repressed by the police. 

 Ukraine cannot stop the war alone, and it is not its decision to make. This weekend, World War Three prospects were discussed in Russian propaganda. The presenter explained the Russian nuclear capability: ‘Why should the world exist if there is no Russia there?’

I leave it to you to consider what the chances are, but a week ago, many laughed at the prospect of a full-scale military invasion into Ukraine.  

Graphic from Nataliya Pipa, a Ukrainian MP who has a Facebook post with links to donate

Donate to Ukraine

United Help Ukraine – medical aid and humanitarian relief

Red Cross Ukraine

Army SOS – donations for the Ukrainian army

Voices of Children – support for Ukrainian children affected by war

Kyiv Independent Patreon – an independent English-language newspaper based in Kyiv

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