Fighting in Ukraine threatens lives, art, culture

LAWRENCE, Kan. — The shelling in Ukraine continues to get closer to home for Kansas University Professor Dr. Vitaly Chernetsky.

FOX4 told you last week about how he’s from Odesa, a coastal community along the Black Sea and struggled to convince his father to leave that community when the Russian invasion began.

More than a week later, that community is just 2.5 hours from cities that are now under Russian control

Chernetsky worries his community could be next since he said it seems like the Russians are targeting coastal communities to cut Ukraine off from the water.

“Odesa is the only city left on the Black Sea coast of Ukraine that has not sustained heavy attacks,” Chernetsky said.

He said Odesa is a diverse city with a rich arts and culture scene where art galleries are now putting exhibits in secure storage and people are trying to get out.

“I mean, it’s very similar to what was happening during Hitler’s rise to power in Germany when many intellectuals tried to leave,” Chernetsky said.

His hope is that the similarities will end there.

Already, he says groups like the Scholars at Risk Network are helping students and educators get out of Ukraine, where they might be in harm’s way.

But even though some of his relative left the Ukranian capital already and are waiting in the western part of the country, Chernetsky’s father is still in Odesa and he can’t convince his dad to leave even though the last week has shown how bad the conflict can get for the whole region.

“He is really afraid that if the city falls to the Russian troops and if that occupation is long and sustained that he might not be able to see me in person ever again,” Chernetsky said.

Chernetsky said he’s noticing all the ways people are showing support, after the demonstration in Country Club Plaza this past weekend to Ukranian colors along the skyline.

He said those gestures might be symbolic, but they help.

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