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Ukrainian Professor Continues to Teach Amid Conflict

FRESNO — For the past few days, Nataliia Kasianenko watched on television and social media as Russian forces have bombarded residential areas in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv — her hometown.

Kasianenko has been in constant communication with her family and friends while her parents hide in a shelter underground, next to their apartment complex.

“My hometown is now at the forefront of the fighting,” said Kasianenko, an assistant professor of political science at Fresno State. “Russian tanks are on the outskirts of town. People were told to shelter underground but it’s night time in February. Many underground shelters are cold and dirty, with no running water and electricity, and only standing room. My parents are staying at home for this reason. Everyone is scared and we do not know what the future will bring.”

Through the chaos, Kasianenko, an expert on Eastern Europe, has continued to teach classes in international politics and global political economy.

Kasianenko will host a teach-in on the Ukraine situation, open to the campus community, from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, at Room 2206 of the library. The event will also be available on Zoom and a recording of the event will be available after. The teach-in is sponsored by the College of Social Sciences at Fresno State.

Kasianenko has discussed the conflict between Russia and Ukraine with her students throughout the semester. Some assignments in her international politics classes focused on the questions of sovereignty and sovereignty enforcement in the case of Ukraine, as well as possible explanations for the ongoing tense relations between the U.S. and Russia.

She grew up in the Ukrainian cities of Odesa and Kharkiv and never imagined such attacks and explosions would invade her home. “We knew about the troop build-up, but no one actually believed that this was going to happen,” Kasianenko said. “No one in their wildest, worst nightmares thought that Russia would actually engage in a full-on invasion.”

As she hopes and prays for an end to the attacks, Kasianenko continues to update her Facebook page. On Monday, Feb. 28, she wrote, in part:

“Another war update. The most intense shelling in my hometown of Kharkiv. All parts of town, residential buildings, schools, hospitals are being bombed from the ground and from the sky. My parents have spent the last eight hours in the basement. I don’t know if they still have a home on the outside. Mom gets out of the shelter every several hours to send a message “we are okay, don’t worry. There’s shelling everywhere so I’m glad we are underground.” I keep telling her to stay in the basement and not come out. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know when and how I will be able to get them out.”

Image of a peace sign in Ukrainian colors.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead

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