One-Year Anniversary of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

With the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine recently passing, the feeling of devastation and loss of unity between the two countries by students and faculty alike at Dickinson has intensified.

Dickinson’s only Ukrainian international student, Denys Sharpylo ’26 has parents and extended 

family living in Kyiv in the midst of the war. He explained that they are in the most protected city in Ukraine, despite the increasing violence. Though his family is safe, he said after about six or seven months, people have gotten numb to the threats of war, since “life goes on, because it has to go on.” 

Sharpylo said since the invasion of Feb. 24, “we have shown ourselves that this is not a type of thing to be scared of” due to the leadership of the Ukrainian government and support from other nations. However, he still believes more attention can be brought to the conflicts.

During his first year at Dickinson, he has felt like the college has done a great job educating students about the war. Sharpylo was invited to talk about his experience of the war in a first-year seminar and the Russian department invited him to a table to speak about the differences in languages and the cultures. 

Sharpylo said he is “thinking about working with the Russian department” after their consistent inclusion. He appreciated their welcome and plans on organizing events to raise awareness of the current climate, to do something for his country from the Dickinson campus.

Associate Professor of Russian Elena Duzs first heard about the possibility of the invasion on a Clarke Forum panel, and couldn’t fathom the turn for the worse. Now that a year has gone by, the devastation remains, but she encourages faculty and students to “try to be positive even when the heart is bleeding.” 

As the chair of the Russian department, she is “doing everything possible to remind them and ourselves that despite the war, Russian culture is vibrant.” She urges people to understand the camaraderie and history between the two countries, and emphasizes that at Dickinson “we try to have a positive connection.” 

Since the Russian study abroad program was discontinued, it is hard for Duzs to physically show students this history. Negative portrayals of Ukraine are shown in Russia in 2023, but before “children who were growing up and were watching something about Ukraine, [the country] was always positively represented.” She is focusing on informing students on campus about the “bright culture of Russia.”

Duzs and Sharpylo are both educating and informing the people of Dickinson about the two countries’ intertwining history and differences. The Russo-Ukrainian war has been going on since 2014, but their history far precedes it. 

Each country’s rich culture is being overshadowed by this conflict. Duzs explained how “people here might think that Russians hate the Ukrainians and Ukrainians hate Russians, it’s the fact of the war, but there is such a deep relationship.” The sharp increase in bombings and casualties since 2022 further threatens the unity the two countries once had.