Rescuers in central Kharkiv, Ukraine, carry the body of a victim outside the regional administration building March 1, 2022. CNS photo/Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy, Reuters

Assault on Ukraine rouses academic allies

  • March 2, 2022

Brilliant young sociologist Tymofii Brik, of the Kyiv School of Economics, is normally happy to explain the subtleties of Ukrainian society and opinion. When The Catholic Register’s questions reached him last week, however, he was not in his scholarly comfort zone.

“Sorry for the late reply,” came Brik’s Feb. 25 e-mail from Ukraine. “I was in a shelter and maybe will be drafted to protect the city. So, who knows if I can answer?”

He was still willing to venture early analysis.

“(The Russians) portray themselves as those who want to save Ukraine and bring peace,” he wrote. “This narrative does not work. No one buys it in Russia and Ukraine, and the West. Ukrainians rally now.”

Led by his heart, Brik was ready to lay aside his academic career and take up arms. By Facebook Messenger, he told The Catholic Register about his attempt to enlist in Ukraine’s fighting forces.

“The local army office was full,” he said. “But there were so many people. Some were waiting from yesterday. So, I felt a bit redundant.”

He tried to donate blood, but again the donation centre was jammed. He concluded his blood might be necessary later.

Instead, he and his girlfriend walked through Kyiv looking for phosphorous markings left by saboteurs to guide Russian missiles.

“Many marks are in living areas,” he e-mailed academic colleagues and friends in the West.

But those leaving marks on buildings do not reflect the conviction of the city under Russian siege.

“People donate money, clothes, blood, empty bottles for Molotov cocktails,” Brik reported on Feb. 26. “All the city is fighting or helping.”

Brik’s search for a way to contribute soon returned to familiar ground. Within hours, he had gathered the enthusiastic support of dozens of historians, economists, sociologists, and political scientists at institutions from the University of Toronto to the Abu Dhabi campus of New York University for a global academic conference on the implications of this new and dangerous war.

By Monday afternoon the proposal was beginning to take shape as a series of individual events.

“We in Toronto have taken your call to action to heart and are organizing a series of public events on the invasion,” Matthew Light of the Munk School at the University of Toronto wrote to Brik.

“All my friends are researchers, scholars – no experience in war,” Brik explained on Facebook Messenger. “But people with experience serve now and serve (well). Our heroes.”

What Ukrainians want is a normal life, Brik told The Catholic Register. Nothing could be less normal than a capital of three million people fighting off the Russian army and air force, but Brik has an idea of what he means by normal life.

“What else?” Brik wrote as he finished up another quick e-mail. “Ah yes! Yesterday someone gave birth in a shelter in a subway. Very cute.”

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