Donbs. The “Nomadic” University


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The University of Eastern Ukraine was established in 1920, and has one of its many “specialties” that are difficult to imagine in the curriculum of other European institutions: their semi “nomadic” statusbecause of which he was firedOn many occasions one has to face the closeness of conflicts.

This is what happened to him during World War II, when the Soviet authorities decided to transfer him to Siberia. This happened again in 2015, when his leadership moved to Severodnetsk after Russia-backed separatist forces took control of Lugansk in the country’s east. Aggressive Severodnetsk, which is almost surrounded by Russian troops, He is forced to look for another location: the city of Dnipro.

The situation in front of the said educational institution is not unprecedented either. The cases of educational organizations in the Donbs – and with them the cases of thousands of students and teachers – who have had to relocate are legion. Donetsk State University of Internal Affairs transfers another four Since 2014, as recently recognized by its rector, Serhi Witvitsky. From Donetsk – another city that came under separatist control – they moved to Krivy Rih. Then he chose Mariupol. In February he had to return to Kryvyi Rih and in recent weeks he has established several of his faculties in Kropyvnytskyi in central Ukraine.

“The war is a disaster for all Ukrainians but I have to thank the authorities and members of the teaching community in many cities who have welcomed our teachers and students. The goal is to preserve Lugansk’s scientific potential. Young people will be able to study Keep going and we hope that they will return to their land very soon,” Sergei Gaidai, the highest civil authority in Lugansk, said a few weeks ago.

According to Okoviti Sergei Ivanovich, the rector of the Oles Honchar University in Dnipro, as soon as he got a call from his counterpart in Lugansk in March, he set up a space on the sprawling campus that his institution lives in in the Ukrainian city. To allow “about 300 people, mostly teachers and their families” to settle here, A few days later he did the same after receiving a request from the Donbes Pedagogical University located in the city of Slavyansk.

In any other part of Europe, a character like Ivanovich would show the visitor a collection of scientific books – he studied chemistry – but here the head of Ols Höncher lays near his desk the remains of one of the Russian missiles that fell at Dnipro is .

The curious “furniture” is part of the new and troubled situations that Ukrainians have to deal with and in particular the natives of the Donbs, who, like Yana Bilaus herself, insist that In the last decade they have faced “two wars” and their consequences.,

“I have been displaced twice,” says the 35-year-old engineering professor at the University of Eastern Ukraine, in the form of a letter of introduction. That fateful year, 2014, Yana and her husband remained in Lugansk until November, when the intensity of the shelling forced them to leave. “An obscure piece fell into the house next door,” he recalls.

That beginning of the conflict caused a deep social rift across the region, which spread to the same university in eastern Ukraine, now It has two headquarters: the official one, which ends in Dnipro and the other which runs the pro-Russian administration of Lugansk.,

“Half of the students stayed in Lugansk and half came to Severodonesk”, says the teacher. In keeping with the past, Yana and her husband fled to Severodonesk on the same day that the Russians made their final push in February. “We had the 2014 experience and we anticipated what was going to happen,” he says.

Sofia Marchenko, coordinator of a local NGO in Dnipro specializing in aiding the displaced, has only a handful of “positive” attributes that can be drawn from those who have already seen their world collapse once. “It’s too easy for the displaced couple to repack”he thinks

Following instructions from the Ukrainian Ministry of Education, the Bilas department reactivated online classes in April and now teaches 40 students – some of them spread throughout Ukrainian geography or even living abroad. Although it acknowledges that the conflict has affected the concentration of the students. “connect only half the regular”tells.

Yana Ivanchuk shares a fortune with Volodgamir, who at the age of 33 already holds the post of deputy director of the Donbes Pedagogical University. His city, Slavyansk, was one of the centers of the 2014 fighting. The headquarters of his department ended up in Bakhmut, another city which is being attacked by Russian artillery on occasion.

“It’s all a little chaotic. We have students in Poland and many parts of western Ukraine. I don’t know how the June exams are going to be. We have to be a little more flexible,” he says.

A visit to the former university and the Pedagogical University of the Donbes is part of the history of this nation, which seems like a collection of tragedies that accumulate in layers. One over the other. 6.5 million refugees and over 8 million displaced Those resulting from previous invasions are added to those that have already nurtured the statistics since 2014.

The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that Ukraine It had 1.6 million displaced persons before 24 February, 854,000 of them in areas controlled by Kyiv.

The first part of the conflict in 2014 and 2015 caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee to Kharkov, with the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, still in government hands, becoming the main destinations of exodus.

64-year-old Larisa Babi is one of those people who has spent years trying to flee a war that inevitably engulfs her again. He has lived since 2017 in a prefabricated house camp, built in the Kharkov neighborhood for displaced people from the Donbs. I got the name “Hope”. Almost a satire, given the current circumstances.

A native of the city of Donetsk, captured by pro-Russian paramilitaries, Larisa first fled to the Sea of ​​Azov coast – not far Mariupol– And when the conflict of 2014 and 2015 spread to that region, it ended in Kharkov.

He now lives in a small cabin in Room No. 1 of this complex, which had 300 residents when it opened in 2015. Over time, this number decreased to a hundred who lived here before February.

“Kharkov was packed with people from the Donbs. Later, some people returned home thinking the situation was calm,” explains 43-year-old Andrei Golubtsov, displaced from Lugansk.

During the worst days of the bombing that shook Kharkov, Larisa and her 26-year-old daughter spent the night in the shelter of a nearby bus station. The shrapnel reached some of the chambers of the enclosure.

“The airport is very close and during the first days (of the attack) it ended in flames,” the woman recalls. “To be honest, I would like to go to Germany. i am so tired of war“, adds the woman.

The situation of these displaced people is particularly complex as many maintain family and perhaps ideological links with the occupied territories. The father of 42-year-old Marina Kirbaba lives in the city of Donetsk, and she defends that the West is using Ukraine as a “battlefield”. “It’s a war between America and Russia, but here. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be World War III”, he argues. “I’ve already fought with half my family. They’re separatists,” admits Professor Bilaus, for his part.

The displacement of institutions and people is part of the radical process that has fueled this war in the country, which has completely disturbed all the regions of the country. The changes have also extended to the companies themselves, which have left the east of the country in the hundreds. According to Iryna Zhuravlyova, one of the people responsible for this task at Dnipro, At least 510 firms of all kinds have had to relocate to other sectors And half of them have already restarted their business.

Even for those who already have a certain “experience” in these matters, the struggle will leave an indelible mark on their lives. “The other day I was talking about it with my husband: the war has swallowed up the best years of our lives,” Yana admits with a certain tone of resignation.

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