Lukas Flippo, Senior Photographer

In February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, resulting in an ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine that has killed 500,000 people, according to U.S. officials in August 2023. On Feb. 25, Yale President Peter Salovey condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine in an email and invited students to a virtual vigil for peace in the immediate days afterward. 

Since the early days of the war, many students and professors at Yale have reacted to the devastation and violence, including those who have personal connections to Ukraine.

“There is no feeling like trying to carry on with your life here when you don’t know if your family is going to be bombed,” Sofiya Bidochko ’24, whose extended family lives in Ukraine, told the News on Feb. 25. “The air sirens are going off where my family’s at, and the government issued warnings that there could be attacks tonight. There’s just no way for me to want to study for a midterm when such a tragedy is going on.”

Yuliia Zhukovets ’23, a Ukrainian international student, was involved in organizing student-led responses to the war and galvanizing support for organizations helping those in Ukraine. Along with fellow Ukrainian students Oleksii Antoniuk ’24 and Bidochko, she organized a rally on March 1, 2022, that was attended by hundreds and helped to fundraise for various Ukrainian organizations.

Those in attendance included Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, and professors Marci Shore and Timothy Snyder.

“Seeing so many people show up, ready to dedicate a Sunday afternoon to rally for Ukraine, made me feel very confident that international solidarity actually exists,” Antoniuk told the News. “This rally showed me that Ukraine is not alone in this.”

Those at the rally spoke of the importance of withholding financially from Russia, with Antonuik and others calling for Yale to divest from their stocks in Russia. 

Antonuik has also been vocal about advocating for increased admission of students to Yale from Ukraine and other war-torn countries, writing an opinion piece in the News where he emphasized the destruction of war and the importance of Yale taking a more active role in helping people in these regions. In response to the opinion piece, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan invited him to meet to discuss the issue further. Since then, according to Antonuik, more Ukrainian students have been admitted, from two to three students before 2022 to approximately 10 admitted students in the 2023 admissions cycle.

“Yale’s response was great, I can say that I’m proud to be at this university,” Antonuik told the News.

Since 2022, the Ukraine House has continued to organize talks with prominent leaders to discuss the ongoing war, events to bring the community together, and vigils and rallies to raise awareness about what is going on in Ukraine. This year, students organized a vigil on Feb. 24 to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion. Ukraine House President Daria Valska ’26 spoke of the importance of continuing to support Ukraine.

“Ukrainians are tired of war, but we do not have an option of ignoring it. We cannot pretend it doesn’t exist because it’s not on the front pages anymore. So today I ask you to keep supporting Ukraine, as the war is still as present as it was two years ago,” Valska said.

Yale’s academic offerings on Russia and Ukraine have also increased over the past few years. In Spring 2024, there were eight courses on Yale Course Search that mentioned Ukraine in the title or the description of the course, compared to zero in the 2020-21 academic year

Edyta Bojanowska, chair of the Slavic Languages and Literatures department, emphasized the relevance of an academic response to the war.

“Scholars are responding to the shock of the war by trying to account more fully and more critically for the legacies of Russian and Soviet imperialism and by charting alternative visions of Russia and Eastern Europe, their histories and cultures, that counter those emanating from the Kremlin,” Bojanowska wrote to the News in March.

Ahead of the fall 2023 semester, Yale hired new lecturer Olha Tytarenko, who will lead the Ukrainian language program. 

David Cameron, a political science professor, taught the department’s only Yale College seminar about Ukraine in Spring 2024. He explained that public awareness and understanding of the war is crucial.

“The focus of my work has been on the European Union and European politics,” Cameron told the News. “Anyone interested in Europe is presumably interested in what is happening in this war. But from my perspective, anyone in this world should be thinking about and concerned about what’s happening in Europe, and specifically in Ukraine in the war.”

Russia formally invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. 

ADA PERLMAN
Ada Perlman covers religious life at Yale. She is a first year in Pierson College.