STEUBENVILLE - A Franciscan University of Steubenville said Ukranians are looking for moral support from western countries during the current confrontation with Russia.
A map and a flag of Ukraine is taped to the wall in the office of Alexander R. Sich, who is preparing to travel to Ukraine on Thursday.
"I will be in Ukraine until the 14th, and if I have an opportunity I will travel to the east. My wife and our children lived in Kiev during our 12 years in Ukraine. In 2004, there were protests during the Orange Revolution. But it was like a city block party. My son participated in several of the events. But recent events in Ukraine have become more deadly this time," observed Sich.
STUDYING THE MAP — Franciscan University of Steubenville physics professor Alexander Sich studied a map of Ukraine on the wall above his desk. Sich spent 12 years living in Ukraine and plans to travel to the country Thursday for two separate presentations. -- Dave Gossett
The current Russian intervention in Eastern Ukraine has the attention of Sich, who is scheduled to travel to Ukraine this week to make separate presentations to the Institute for Condensed Matter and at the Ukranian Catholic University.
The university physics professor spent 12 years in Ukraine before he arrived in Steubenville in 2009.
"I was doing research at Chernobyl for approximately 18 months, and my wife and I lived in Ukraine for 12 years where four of our seven children were born. In fact my oldest son considers Kiev, Ukraine, his hometown," said Sich.
Sich was the first Westerner permitted to investigate the nuclear reactor meltdown in Chernobyl alongside Russian and Ukrainian scientists and lived in Chernobyl for 18 months and in Ukraine for 12 years. Since then, he has worked in several positions related to nuclear support and safety for the U.S. Department of Energy, the European Bank in London and the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine.
There is also a family connection for Sich, who said he has cousins living in Ukraine.
"Right now I am disgusted by the inaccuracies in reporting by the Western press. I saw a report on CNN that referred to the Crimean residents as 50 percent Russian. That is nonsense. There are 17.3 percent of the people who are Russian. And they are not Russian citizens, they are Ukranian citizens. That reporting plays directly into Vladimir Putin's hands," cited Sich.
"One of the more bitter pills the Ukranians are now understanding is the weakness of the West. The Ukranians look to the West as the harbinger of human rights and freedom. They just want to be friends with everyone. The Russians are trying to take part of the Ukraine and say it used to be part of their country," noted Sich.
"One of the most vile incidents to happen to Ukraine was done by the Russians in the 1920s and 1930s when the great famine took place and millions of Ukranians died. The Soviet leadership sent Russians into the Ukraine and they made Russian the language of Ukraine. When the Ukranian parliament made Ukranian the official language of the country they weren't taking anything away from Russia. But Russian is no longer a special language in Ukraine," stated Sich.
"There are three million ethnic Russians living in the United States but I don't see Putin coming over here. What you are seeing in Ukraine are people calling for Putin to get out of the country. That's how deeply the Ukranians feel about their country. There are a lot of things the Ukranians don't like about Europe but they do like the freedoms in Europe. And the Ukranians have gifts they want to share with Europe," said Sich.
"The Russians have moved into the Crimea to protect the ethnic Russians. But the ethnic Crimeans were Tartars who were forcibly moved from Crimea by the Soviet Union. The largest majority population of Tartars now live in Turkey," continued Sich.
"The other issue is the religious front where you have Roman Catholics in Western Ukraine, Orthodox Catholics in the East and three other Orthodox groups divided between Moscow, Kiev and an independent church. There is a very eclectic religious situation in Ukraine. Putin is using the Russian Orthodox church like Stalin used it during World War II to gain money and prestige," stated Sich.
"Crimea is the crown jewel and Sevastopol is a vacation resort community for Russians. The Russians also like to keep the memory of their war against the British that was won in the Crimea," added Sich.
"If it was within my power I would have half of our population spend six months abroad. I think they would be more grateful for the freedoms we have in the United States. If freedom isn't ordered to the good it will be ordered to the bad. There are 46 million people in Ukraine who want to build a dignified life. Let the Ukranians make their own choices," urged Sich.
"I do see some positives in Ukraine. There is a real hope in Ukraine for freedom. The people there don't want to live like they have. You can imagine every day life for the Ukranians. They don't want to rally Americans to take up their cause. They just want our moral support. They don't want to be bullied anymore. Just like people in Africa, Syria and China don't want to be bullied. They just want the freedom to choose," said Sich.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)