Taras Oleksyk faces the crisis in Ukraine, where he was born and lived for more than 20 years, as only a biologist knows how to do: methodically.
The Oakland University professor, who has research partnerships with a Ukrainian university, is helping compile a list of labs around the world that need researchers and working to connect them with Ukrainian scientists.
He remains in constant contact with his sister, a Ukrainian doctor and regional deputy, knowing that she would not leave the country if she could. But he welcomed his daughter, who went to demonstrate this week in Washington DC. Her sister opened her childhood home in western Ukraine, considered a safer area, to refugees. She tends to people injured by Russian bombs and bullets and avoids panic, sometimes calling her brother for words of support, as she did on Thursday afternoon.
Oleksyk writes essays, including one for The Oakland Press opinion page, calling on Americans, Ukrainians or not, to pay attention to the crisis, to support Ukrainian Americans and, most of all, to know why Valdimir Putin has led the Russian military to invade..
Ukraine, a country of 44 million people whose territory is one-fifth the size of the United States, has had a distinct identity as an independent republic for 30 years, Oleksyk told The Oakland Press. The Russian invasion is “complete madness. If the Russians think the Ukrainian people are the same, why bombard us with ballistic rockets and cluster bombs on civilians? … This invasion is completely unnecessary. It only serves one fool.
Oleksyk helped a graduate student, her husband from India, and their baby flee Ukraine. Now he is looking to place a history professor, who is currently leading a Ukrainian platoon tasked with protecting a road, he last heard.
“I’m only a man, but at this point I feel like one dedicated person can be worth 10 people,” he said. “We are trying to reach out to find 10 other people who can do the same. If we do this, we can win. We will be unbeatable. »
Oakland County residents supported, he said, kind words and deeds to donations for the effort.
“The worst thing you can do is do nothing,” he said.
Like Oleksyk, Olena Danylyuk of Bloomfield Hills is doing all she can, including becoming one of three vice chairs of the Ukrainian American Crisis Committee formed about a month ago.
Growing up in Ukraine, she remembers a time when she was happy to speak Russian and loved Russians. Right now she is angry. The bombs are destroying her people and the history of her homeland, she says.
“I wouldn’t even read a book in Russian,” she said, wondering why people living in Russia allow Putin to rule the way he did.
Danylyuk said she was praying “every second, every minute” that the leaders of other countries, including the United States, would take concrete action to support Ukraine’s continued independence.
She doesn’t want to see US soldiers sent into combat, she says, but wonders if US military drones could be used to repel invaders. She would like to see members of Congress find a way to create temporary documentation rules for Ukrainian refugees, something to get them to safety.
The Ukrainian American Crisis Committee provides structure to more than 30 Ukrainian American groups in the metropolitan area, as well as contacts with other Americans who want to help but don’t know how.
The committee’s website suggests donating medical supplies, which will be shipped to Poland and transported to the field in Ukraine, she said. The committee coordinates with regional and national groups to deliver a clear and consistent message that includes why Americans should care about what’s happening abroad and take action, whether it’s giving money for humanitarian efforts or support for wounded warriors, or supplies, to show up at protests or contact federal lawmakers to urge them to make it easier for the more than 700,000 Ukrainians who have fled the country to seek refuge in the United States
The national effort is coordinating with credible 501(c)(3) nongovernmental organizations and refugee foundations, she said.
Danylyuk says his prayers for help are intense as many of his family members are still in Ukraine. Some took refuge in rural villages. Some do not want to leave the country but fear for the safety of their children. She helps coordinate resources for people outside her family who have fled or are trying to do so. Some traveled to Detroit-area airports.
She wants to see world leaders stop Putin.
“I understand that everyone is scared, because Putin is crazy,” she said. “Why does one person have to make a decision for 44 million people? Imagine if tomorrow someone bombed you, because, what? Are you a normal human?
Danylyuk said she was proud of those in Ukraine who took up arms to fight the invaders, and proud to see so many Americans offering their support, in time or money, to those who offered to open their homes. to refugees.
She is happy to see Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova easing travel restrictions so that even Ukrainians without official papers can enter these countries.
Julia Kalusniak, 21, from Michigan, grew up in Bloomfield Township, but her family emigrated from Ukraine about 100 years ago. Her great-aunt keeps in touch with relatives still in Ukraine and keeps the American side of the family up to date.
Kalusniak, an intern in the office of U.S. Representative Andy Levin, said watching the news about the Russian invasion “taught me how complex these situations are.”
Levin, a Democrat, joined the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, interfaith leaders and Ukrainian American citizens and members of the Ukrainian American Michigan Crisis Response Committee at a solidarity rally at the National Holodomor Memorial. The federal site acknowledges the Soviet-induced terrorist famine of 1932-1933 that killed an estimated 3.5 million Ukrainians.
Despite everything she does, Danylyuk still feels helpless. She went shopping this week and felt sick of living comfortably while her extended family is in danger.
“Now we just pray,” she said. “We have prayer and God and angels to protect us. We will rebuild.
Oakland University will have a table dedicated to supporting Ukraine in the student union when classes resume after spring break. Students, faculty and staff have volunteered to work at the tables to speak to anyone interested in what is happening in Ukraine, and they will have flyers showing how people can donate or offer other support. OU will have a banner that anyone on campus can sign in support.
A candlelight vigil is scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, March 11 at Elliott Tower on campus.
Learn more at https://www.uacrisisresponse.org.