Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The Russian invasion of Ukraine: a student’s guide to action

Sometimes less is more
McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

It can be hard to envision a reality that feels so far from home.

University of Massachusetts students awoke this morning to news alerts of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, roused by an alarm that typically gets them up for class, or maybe their dreams echoed with the sound of a Snapchat notification. Unlike students at UMass, millions of Ukrainians awoke this morning to the sounds of war. A cacophony of explosions and rattling windows, accompanied by blaring air sirens and news that every corner of their country was being flanked by Russian soldiers.

It’s easy for Americans to remove themselves from this conflict. But despite what many already see as a lost battle, there’s a lot that we, as students and fellow humans, can do to aid in what has been the biggest invasion on European soil since World War II. I’ve compiled a list of actions, both small and large, that college students can use to guide their involvement as the conflict unfolds abroad.

  1. Talk about it

What’s currently evolving in Ukraine is not another United States-sponsored proxy war. While powers like the U.S., Britain and Germany have vested interest in this conflict, the scale and scope are much larger than anything we’ve experienced in the last two decades.

As college students and media consumers, this is certainly an issue worth talking about. Not because we care about the value of the Russian ruble, but because a war with Russia will inevitably have a ripple effect on our everyday lives here. Talk to your friends and classmates about what this conflict means, who’s involved and where things go from here.

For Americans, this is equally a battle for influence as it is misinformation. Ukraine is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which means that unless the U.S. decides to enter the war, American contributions will likely be speech, not direct action. Ask yourself if the videos being shared on Twitter and Tik Tok are real. Are they actually coming from Ukraine in February 2022 or is it footage of a previous conflict?

Above all, engage in as much dialogue as possible. Before this conflict escalates, focus on learning about the roots of this Russian aggression. Take the Israeli-Palestine coverage we saw last summer for example. Many media consumers took to social media to ask how this could ever happen without researching the history of these two nations. The conflict is much easier to digest once you understand events like the 1947 Partition and the Six-Day War. Likewise, I implore you to do your research and read about the dissolution of the USSR, the subsequent nuclear disarmament and the 2014 Annexation of Crimea, as it relates to Ukraine.

  1. Listen & Question

Take a moment to be grateful you attend a university with more than 30,000 students. That’s 30,000 different lived experiences, many of which can help you understand what war really means. Plenty of UMass students came to the U.S. seeking an opportunity to escape conflict. Listen to them and what they have to say. Hear their stories about living through war and ask them what it felt like. This moment in time is a chance for you to learn from your peers about something you may never personally experience, though millions around the globe will.

Question what it means to be at war in another country versus having that war on your soil. Ask yourself what you would do if a missile hit your neighborhood. Address the questions you’ve never thought of asking because they’ve always felt outlandish. Nobody wants war; it’s the last resort for a reason.

When you catch yourself getting a little too excited talking about the possibility of war on non-American soil, remind yourself that you’re no foreign policy expert. You don’t have Defcon clearance, nor do you truly understand what Russia’s next steps might be. Accept that being a geopolitical expert in the coming days is not in the books, and then move from there. You won’t need to know everything, just listen and question as you go.

  1. Stop the performative activism

Let’s face it: a GoFundMe will have little to no impact on the people of Ukraine. Ukraine doesn’t need money and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made this very clear. The U.S. has provided Ukraine with more than $650 million in aid in the past year alone, yet no signs of American military training or air defenses seem to be slowing things down. While talking about this issue is important, pretending that a Kickstarter can save the 35th largest country is nonsensical. Post your blue and yellow squares on Instagram with the caption “Save Ukraine” in plush bubble letters, but let’s make this clear: ugly conflicts deserve ugly posts. We cannot sugarcoat the death of soldiers in their homeland. We can circulate hashtags and we can repost infographics but this is a serious geopolitical invasion escalating right before our eyes.

Find more appropriate ways to disseminate information about this conflict. Post meaningful quotes from articles citing official sources and not Instagram activism pages. Post multimedia videos and audio clips from reliable sources such as government websites and journalists in eastern Europe. Social media has the power to share groundbreaking news from halfway across the world in a moment’s notice. We must recognize the power in this and use it to our advantage. Now more than ever, knowledge is power.

Going forward

History has an unrivaled propensity for repeating itself. We think we’re past history until it sneaks up on us, disguised as a wolf in sheep’s clothing with a bloodlust for repetition. It was just under 80 years ago that President Harry S. Truman gave orders to drop “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. Putin is a world leader who claims that, “Whoever would try to stop us and further create threats to our country, our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and lead you to such consequences that you have never faced in your history.” With a leader ten times as temperamental as Truman and a hundred times as committed, very little will break Putin’s resolve.

You don’t need to be an expert nor does Ukraine’s fate rely on your contribution, but a little involvement can go a long way. Talk to your peers and family. Listen to what your international friends have to say. Question what you read and be a cognizant media consumer in the coming weeks. Even if Russia takes full control of Ukraine tomorrow, the impact of these actions will be felt for the next decade. Understand the implications of this conflict and move forward with a better understanding of how far your actions can go, even if they’re from the UMass campus.

Max Schwartz can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Maxwschwartz.

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