Saturday, February 11, 2023

Reflection on the 1 Year Anniversary of Russia's Major Invasion of Ukraine

This is an extremely difficult post for me to write but it is important to do so and not to be silent.

I remember the morning of February 24, 2022 vividly. I was about to teach my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class at the Isenberg School and the guest speaker, Dr. Denise Sumpf,  Head of the UN Resident Coordinator Office and Senior Development Coordination Officer in Armenia, was a bit late. She was speaking to my class via Zoom and had just taken part in a UN Security Council meeting because of Russia's major invasion of Ukraine. It was a guest lecture on her experiences working for the UN and she also spoke about Nagorno Karabakh with interspersed comments on the invasion of Ukraine. Some background on her talk and those of others in my course is here.

Ukraine,  a sovereign nation in Europe, was being invaded and attacked by its neighbor - Russia. 

I was shaken to the core as were all of my Ukrainian relatives and many friends.

This past year has been unlike any other that I have experienced - filled with concern, trepidation, and outright terror. As an academic and as a daughter of WWII refugees from Ukraine, who was born in Canada, I had heard many stories from my parents and relatives who had to flee the Nazis and Soviets. I felt it essential to do what was possible. Not to act or to speak out was not an option. I might add that my brother had entered hospice in February 2022, while battling cancer, which made the year even more challenging. We laid him to rest in September.

Shortly after the major invasion (and I might add that Russia had already taken parts of eastern Ukraine and Crimea in 2014 illegally), which is de facto a war, I was contacted by reporters and the first interview that I did was published on February 28, 2022. The article, entitled, "'I fear a cultural genocide'; Ukrainians in Western Mass. watch, worry and help," was written by Jim Kinney for The Springfield Republican and published also on

The media interviews continued and I felt it was my responsibility to respond and to inform on topics related to the war that I felt knowledgeable about from impacts of the war on agricultural supply chains and food insecurity to issues of refugees as well as higher education. I had already been contacted by several international media outlets in January 2022 and said that I believed that Putin would invade Ukraine and why.

Some of  the interviews, which include those with The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and other print media can be found here.

Interviews for radio and TV programs can be accessed here.

Letters to the Editor and OpEds that I wrote can be read here.

Shortly after the major invasion, I was elected Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) in Ukraine and, already in late February, I was fielding messages from administrators and faculty there. I have served for several years on the International Academic Board of KSE and also on its Board of Directors. These are service activities that are very meaningful to me. The last time that I was in Kyiv was for a board meeting in September 2019 and I blogged the wonderful experience. It is such an honor to work with my fellow Co-Chairs: Olena Bilan, Oleksandr Kravchenko, and Makar Paseniuk. We meet regularly during this extremely challenging period in the history of Ukraine. 

KSE has done a truly remarkable job sustaining education and even innovating during this wartime period. Plus KSE, through the KSE Foundation, has been involved in major fund raising for disaster relief that includes the building of bomb shelters for schools.  I commend all the faculty and students there, along with the top administrators: KSE President Tymofiy Mylovanov and KSE Rector Tymofii Brik. 

In September 2022, my husband and I had the honor of taking part in the conference and fundraiser organized by KSE, which took place in NYC at the Harvard Club, that I also blogged about. It was extraordinary to see KSE faculty such as Oleg Nivievsky and Nataliia Shapo there, as well as Tymofii Brik and Svitlana Denysenko. My KSE colleagues are authors of extremely important white papers during wartime and regularly speak to the international media. 

The deaths, destruction, terror, and atrocities perpetrated by the Russians continue to inflict an immense cost to Ukrainian lives, culture, the environment, and the safety and security not only of Europe but the free world.  Thanks to all in the free world who have provided significant support of Ukraine and continue to do so as it defends its land and its people. The costs to infrastructure alone due to the war are horrific. The resilience of Ukrainians, their resolve and dedication to defending their lands and way of life against the invaders and terrorists are awe-inspiring.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst established a truly special partnership with KSE with signed memoranda in March and July. Kudos to Provost Emeritus John McCarthy and Vice Provost for Global Affairs Kalpen Trivedi for spearheading this effort with immense support also from Isenberg Dean Anne P. Massey and KSE Rector Brik. Extra thanks to colleagues: Ina Ganguli, Bogdan Prokopovych, and Lauren McCarthy.  A press release on the partnership can be read here. A substantive outgrowth of this partnership is the Virtual Scholar Program where scholars in Ukraine work with faculty at UMass Amherst for a 5 month period with financial support. We now have 9 Virtual Scholars working with faculty at the Isenberg School; 1 with a faculty member in the Math/Stats Department, and 5 Virtual Scholars in Ukraine working with faculty in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

On November 30, we held a welcome event for the Isenberg placed Virtual Scholars with a wonderful writeup on the event done by the Isenberg School. Our colleagues in Ukraine were at a bomb shelter at KSE for the event. The courage, resilience, and dedication of academics, students, practitioners, and defenders in Ukraine is heroic. The slide deck of my introductory remarks, which include those from Dean Massey, can be found here.

And, in December, I wrote an invited article for the INFORMS magazine ORMS Today, with photo on its cover, "Operations Research for the Recovery and Reconstruction of Ukraine."

With the support of many, and fueled by adrenaline, I completed my book, "Labor and Supply Chain Networks, which was published by Springer Nature in January 2023. The preface and acknowledgments are available for free download. The book is dedicated to: essential workers and to those fighting for freedom in Ukraine, with deep gratitude for your heroism. 

Last April, the Shevchenko Scientific Society held an all day remarkable expert-a-thon that I spoke at.

My slide deck can be viewed here. The full 8 hour expert-a-thon program, with an introduction by Dr. Halyna Hryn, who is President of the Shevchenko Scientific Society, and is at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, can be viewed on youtube. We raised funds for the Shevchenko Emergency Fellows and I had the great honor to be on the selection committee. 

The first round of 50 Shevchenko Emergency Fellows has been announced. We hope that the pain and struggles that the artists, poets, historians, linguists, scientists, and other creative folks that were selected Fellows are reduced at least, in part, with some funding that should support their work. Reading their applications was heartbreaking and the need is so great!

Research with the UMass Amherst - KSE Virtual Scholars is now taking place and a symposium is planned for this spring. The work that is being done is timely and highly relevant and energizing for all concerned. The Virtual Scholars are dealing with missiles, blackouts, and Internet disruptions, and their persistence and integrity and love of Ukraine are a bright light to us all during these very dark times.

All that needs to be done is that Russia leave Ukraine, return all of its lands, and stop the killing and destruction and stay out of Ukraine.  Ukraine is part of Europe and its people deserve freedom and peace. This horror in the 21st century must end. 

On February 10, we witnessed an amazing performance by the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine at the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. There were 1,000 in the audience and the orchestra was welcomed with a standing ovation and remarks even made by our western Massachusetts state rep Mindy Domb that moved me. She spoke against the aggression of the Russians against Ukraine and that we all Stand with Ukraine! Below are photos taken towards the end of the concert.

It was so special to see at this concert several of the administrators at UMass Amherst that supported our partnership with KSE as well as colleagues who helped so much with the Virtual Scholars Program. I am so grateful to the Isenberg Dean Ann P. Massey, to Provost Emeritus John McCarthy, and to Provost Tricia Serio, as well as to Dean of the Natural Sciences at UMass Amherst Nate Whitaker for the conversations at the reception and the intermission. Together, we can do so much good and those suffering in Ukraine need to know that they are not alone. #SlavaUkraini! Thank you!