Professor Jane Curry reflects on her history in Ukraine.

Ukraine Russia Politics Crisis Donetsk
Ukrainian soldiers relax on a tank parked near a sunflower field. / Image courtesy Getty Images

As Americans woke to reports of Russian explosions in Ukraine, political science professor Jane Curry saw images of a country she knows—a place where she conducted research and traveled with Santa Clara students—facing destruction.

In the waning years of the Soviet Union, Curry launched an exchange program with Donetsk State University in an area that, as of this writing, withstands a Russian offensive. Students traveled between the two communities, becoming friends who understood one another rather than nameless Cold War enemies. Charles Phipps, S.J. made the trip, too, despite tight controls on religious expression.

Today, the city museum in Donestsk that included an exhibit dedicated to this SCU exchange is a ruin, a victim of Russian bombs.

“The pictures of the attacks on cities in the west and center of Ukraine are poignant tome, as I knew these people,” she says. “I sat in their offices and living rooms asking them questions about why they dared protest in the Orange Revolution in 2019.” That movement included regular Ukrainians, who spent two months in the freezing cold protesting election fraud that delivered victory to a Russian-backed candidate.

Ultimately, the protests forced a recount, ushering the rightful victor to power. Curry learned the Ukrainians have guts—they are not easily cowed. They are like their national flower, the sunflower: stalwart, springing to bloom season after season

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