Over fifty people of varying nationalities gathered in Atlas today. Ukrainians, Russians, Romanians, Belarussians, Chinese and Dutch. They shared their emotions and concerns during an informal drop-in.
‘While we spent an hour and a half talking here, bombs were launched on our cities, including the city where my parents live.’ Assistant professor Maryna Strokal is sad and angry. ‘I feel that WUR’s statement on this issue is not sufficiently stern. It should be stronger. WUR has power. I also feel that WUR could respond more proactively: organise initiatives such as these, don’t let it depend on us. Furthermore: contact Russian universities. They can play a role in fair communication for the Russians. Let a university play a role in disseminating the truth. I call on WUR to help us, in any way possible.’
The drop-in is an initiative of, among others, PhD programme coordinator and PhD advisor Susan Urbanus. ‘I had an introduction with a PhD candidate from Ukraine last week. He wanted to keep his mind occupied with other things, but he was clearly worried about the situation back home. I realised this is probably the case for more Ukrainians and Russians working at WUR. Of course, people may always visit the occupational social worker, but an open drop-in seemed like an excellent way to bring parties together. We proposed the idea to the Executive Board, who gave permission.’ All those present could share how the war affects them. For example, Susan heard that Russians feel guilty. ‘The others discussed that this is not necessary. We wanted to bring different worlds closer together during this meeting.’
Does Strokal see a silver lining? ‘During this gathering, there were not only bombs but also peace negotiations. And I am humbled by all those wanting to help, both here and in Ukraine. And, let’s not forget: this is Putin’s war against the Ukrainians freedome and not that of the majority of the Russian people.’