Ukraine professor speaks to Hamline about events happening in his country

Professor Oleksandr Komarenko from Ukraine met on Zoom with members of the Hamline community to discuss recent activity between Russia and Ukraine.

Charlie Thompson, Reporter

Speaking from his home in war-torn Ukraine, professor Oleksandr Komarenko addressed a panel of Hamline professors and an audience of students and alumni. A Fulbright scholar and Ukrainian resident. He spoke from his home in Kyiv under low light with quiet words. He discussed the conditions he was dealing with and gave an outlook on the future of the besieged country.

The panel was held virtually on Thursday and featured Komarenko and several Hamline professors debating the conflict in Ukraine, with many perspectives being shared.  The panelists provided little in the way of answers as they explained the situation unfolding.

Komarenko spoke first. Throughout his section, he spoke with a wry sense of humor.

“As you can see, I’m still alive,” Komarenko joked to the panelists and audience. 

He spoke on the resources available to Ukrainians, saying that it is still possible to purchase food and medicine despite the siege, though people have to wait in long lines. 

For someone stranded in a war-torn country, Komarenko held his composure and optimism the entire time. He was smiling and joking with former colleagues, mentioning he hoped he would see them again one day. He spoke with the comfort of a man who wasn’t living under the threat of a Russian attack at any moment. He thanked the panel several times for their kindness and ended by calling for an embrace of the slogan “Ukrainian Lives Matter,” an allusion to the Black Lives Matter movement.

History professor John Mazis was there to provide the historical context for the conflict. He cast doubt on Vladamir Putin’s claim that there was no such thing as a Ukrainian state. 

Mazis had powerful words for Putin himself, suggesting that this war was personal and unwise. He also indicated that the Russian army has so far “spectacularly underperformed” but warned that Russia is making enough progress for Ukrainians to be worried. The port of Odessa is under siege by the Russians from the south. If Odessa falls, Mazis said, “[Ukraine] will be cut off at sea”

Mazis went on to speak about the possible endings of the conflict. He believed that neither side knew what victory would look like, and neither side would be satisfied with what they got.

Ukrainians have put up a surprising resistance for a country of its size. Outmanned and outgunned, they’ve slowed Russian progress. Maxis believes that the only true solution is for both sides to solve things diplomatically. He is worried that the conflict could last weeks before either side would make that decision. 

“It won’t be too late [for Russia and Ukraine], but it will be too late for many [civilians],” Mazis said.

The most common refrain of the panel was “I don’t know.” As Russia and Ukraine engage in both peace talks and ground warfare, it’s anyone’s guess what happens from here.


The panel on the War in Ukraine was moderated by Binnur Ozkececi-Taner (Political Science, HU), and featured  Oleksandr Komarenko (Modern and Contemporary History, National University of Kyiv), John Mazis (History, HU), Joseph Peschek (Political Science, HU), David Schultz (Political Science, HU), and Zhenqing Zhang (Political Science, HU)