Professor appeals to Baylor to support his home country, Ukraine

Dr. Serhiy Kudelia reminisces on his childhood as he gives his perspective on the war in Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Serhiy Kudelia

By Danika Young | LTVN Reporter/Anchor

Baylor professor Dr. Serhiy Kudelia remembers when he was 15, living in Ukraine and immediately knowing something strange was going to happen. On Aug. 21, 1991, every television screen played a continuous loop of the Swan Lake Ballet.

“I remember very well that morning, I turned on the television and I saw the Lake Ballet by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, which would go for hours and hours on end,” Kudelia said. “That was the only thing they were showing on all channels of Soviet television. That was the first time that something was going wrong.”

This was a sign that Ukraine had finally gained its independence from the Soviet Union. News of the recent invasion reminded Kudelia of his childhood and the birth of his home country; now, he fears he may see it die. However, he said he believes if Ukraine can say no to the people in power, freedom can be regained.

“It really gave us for the first time — as for me, a 15-year-old — a sense that people can really change the course of history,” Kudelia said. “The people who are in power, the political leader may seem very powerful … but in reality, if enough people would say no to them, their power is gone.”

As a Ukrainian native, Kudelia left parts of his life and childhood behind to study in America in 1985. He said he fears tremendously for the safety of his family and friends back home.

“I cannot express in words how fearful I am, and primarily, you feel for the entire nation at this point,” Kudelia said.“I thought it would be impossible for the Russians to bomb the cities that they view as part of their own history.”

Kudelia remembers the morning he discovered the future of his home country. He said he had a feeling the day before that Russia would soon attack, but he did not expect the conflict to escalate so severely. He said on the morning he heard from family and friends, he woke up to a large number of notifications on his phone, and he immediately knew the war had begun.

“In the morning, I opened my Twitter app, and the first thing I saw was thousands, about 10,000 messages on the very top — something I had never seen before,” Kudelia said. “Whenever I saw 10,000 messages at the top, you understand that something serious happened.”

Kudelia said he is fearful for the fate of his family and friends because Russia seems to be targeting civilian areas across Ukraine, including Kyiv, which is where many of his loved ones live. Recent reports show that at least 596 civilians have died since the start of the attacks.

“Many of my loved ones who are writing me and many in Kyiv right now are in direct danger,” Kudelia said.

Kudelia said it is imperative that the rest of the world steps in with aid and support. He said if they don’t, Ukraine may not live to see another day of freedom and democracy.

“That is the reason why the West should pay very close attention to this conflict, because the spillover effects and the sheer scale of this tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine should leave no one, no one, careless,” Kudelia said. “No one should ignore that tragedy.”

Psychology and neuroscience professor Dr. Sarah Dolan has an academic interest in the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD. She said via email she agrees “we should offer the resources we have to those who can benefit.”

“As a Christian university, it is imperative to support our vulnerable brothers and sisters, not just those within our Baylor family but all of those negatively affected by the war,” Dolan said.

Growing up in Ukraine under Soviet rule, Kudelia said he has seen its relentless persistence firsthand when it comes to obtaining power.

“It is very clear now, Putin will not stop at anything,” Kudelia said. “Putin is hell-bent on capturing Ukraine and submitting it to its rule — if not the entire country, then parts of the country that he views as part of the Russian homeland.”

Kudelia said he calls for support for his country and its people from Baylor and the nation. He said it is important for Ukrainian students, faculty and staff at Baylor to have recourses available to them if needed.

“It is so important for many in the United States and Europe to speak out in support of Ukraine,” Kudelia said. “And I hope the university will speak out and condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Kudelia said he appeals to Baylor to provide more resources, especially to students who have come from Ukraine to study in America, just like he did as a teenager.

“I very much appeal to the Baylor administration, to the president, to the provost, to speak actively against it and to support those students,” Kudelia said. “I know there are several students on campus from Ukraine, so support them, reach out to them and provide them with all types of mental health assistance that they certainly need at this point.”

Kudelia said it’s not just a war between Russia and Ukraine; it involves the whole world. He said he believes it could lead to a much larger war if the right steps are not taken by other nations.

“This conflict should be viewed not only just as a conflict between two ethnic groups or two states,” Kudelia said. “It’s a conflict between two visions of the world, two visions of the future of the world.”