Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts How One University Defied Putin and His Armed Mob
How One University Defied Putin and His Armed Mob

How One University Defied Putin and His Armed Mob

New Atlanticist 

On July 7, 2014, Russian-backed separatists entered Donetsk and occupied four dormitories at Donetsk National University; armed gunmen expelled students from their rooms in the middle of the night. Nine days later, the separatists seized the entire university. During that summer, separatists stole at least seventeen university vehicles and converted student dorms into barracks for their fighters.

At the time, students, administrators, and faculty fled. There was no time to think about packing up the library or the laboratory. But eventually, the university, one of Ukraine’s best, relocated to central Ukraine, to the city of Vinnytsia.

Remarkably, two years after the invasion, the university has almost completely re-established itself.

Recovery began gradually. The first year was “full of hope, faith, and doubts,” Rector Roman Grynyuk and Vice Rector Tetyana Nagornyak wrote in an email.

In October 2014, a pioneering group of students, lecturers, and administrators began to re-establish the university, phone call by phone call. They telephoned each student to ascertain whether he or she planned to continue studying after the university had been moved. “This is Donetsk National University of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine speaking,” a caller would say. They would receive one of two responses: “‘You are the fascists, Banderas’ or ‘I am so happy to hear you. I am together with you,’” Grynyuk and Nagornyak said.

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