Alex Nikitin, professor of biology, was born and raised in Ukraine.
He said he was part of the military for the Soviet Union, serving as
one of its last soldiers.
In 1992, he came to the United States after the Soviet Union broke up
to attend Bowling Green State University. He said he wanted to pursue
science and didn't see that in his future if he stayed in Ukraine.
He said he also has baggage from his military experience, which is
why the events of the last few days were deeply shocking. But then he
sought an outlet for his emotions and the need he felt to act.
"My combat experience is more than 30 years old," Nikitin
said. "I'm not in the shape to go on the front lines, but my
weapon is education. To me, I figured the best thing I could do under
the circumstances is to explain to people what this is about."
As one key takeaway he wants people to understand is the profound
cultural transformation of Ukraine since the Russian invasion began.
He said before, Ukraine was widely viewed as a political boundary, a
kind of buffer with Russia.
"Five days ago, we actually saw the birth of a country,"
Nikitin said, "with a self identity that defines itself not by
its borders but by its attitudes."
Ukraine had been experiencing years of internal, regional tension
related to geopolitical identity, Nikitin said. Western Ukraine was
more pro West, while those in eastern and southeastern Ukraine were
more neutral or sympathetic to Russia and tended to speak Russian in
conversation, he said.
The resistance from across the country to the invasion was something
that surprised Nikitin, and he suspects surprised Russian President
"Whatever the rifts were in the country prior to this war, I
think we're passed that," Nikitin said. "What we see is a
unification of the country against a common enemy. That's how I feel
He said he fears an emboldened Putin who "has his own version of
reality" is trying to rebuild the Russian empire, and that Kyiv,
the capital of Ukraine, is central to what he is envisioning.
He said he is hopeful for intervention from the West before the city
where he was born, and where his mother and mother-in-law are now
living under siege, is destroyed.
Peg West of the University Communications staff contributed to