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'I plan to continue to help my country': Native Ukrainian, Case Western professor remains steadfast as global tensions grow

Ukraine Tensions
Posted at 4:49 PM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 19:32:01-05

KYIV, Ukraine — The impending invasion of eastern Ukraine by Russian forces hits especially close to home for tens of thousands of Ukrainians that have settled in Ohio. The rising tensions along the Ukraine-Russia border have also created a precarious position for many dual citizens, including Case Western Reserve University professor Roman Sheremeta, who has been working on creating a new university in Kyiv for the past several months.

Sheremeta, who was born and raised in Ukraine before immigrating to the United States in his early 20s, is an associate professor of economics at CWRU. Although he describes the atmosphere as ‘calm’ in Kyiv, the same cannot be said in the eastern part of the country, he said.

“A faculty member says standing kilometers away from the border with Russia. She said that the whole night they were awaiting for some missiles to strike the city. That’s the level of fear that people have,” Sheremeta said via Zoom on Tuesday morning. “It’s a very different level of fear that people have in Kyiv than people have in eastern Ukraine.”

Roman Sheremeta.jpeg

For months, Russia has been building up troops and other military assets along the eastern border of Ukraine, including deploying Russian navy assets in the Black Sea near Ukraine’s southern border. On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into the separatist-backed parts of Ukraine, a move that President Joe Biden called a clear violation of international law.

Sheremeta remains resolute in his insistence to remain stationed in Kyiv until it is absolutely necessary for him to evacuate. Even if he were to have to evacuate, Sheremeta said he will continue to fight against Russian propaganda.

“I am staying here. I plan to continue and to help my country. I am still a Ukrainian citizen as well as a United States citizen. I will continue to help my country against this aggression,” Sheremeta said. “I am prepared to evacuation because obviously, I don’t think I would be very helpful on the front line. My competitive advantage is not with a gun but rather with my brain.”

Despite the ongoing international tensions regarding Russia’s possible invasion of Ukraine, Sheremeta said the goal is for American University Kyiv to begin holding classes next month. Designed to be the proverbial ‘beacon of hope,’ the university aims to create the country’s future leaders who will be tasked with growing the country economically as well as fixing some of its societal challenges.

“When I first came here, there was no expectation of a Russian invasion. But to be honest, even if there was, I would have done it anyway,” Sheremeta said. “In a strange way, I feel very blessed and fortunate to be supporting Ukraine in some of the darkest hours.”

Sheremeta said a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be based entirely on flawed, circular logic as well as the Russian propaganda machine. He hopes the international community, including the United States, imposes severe sanctions on Russia while also offering economic aid to Ukraine.

“The whole world sees Russia for what it is but the citizens need… a narrative to support [Russia’s] actions. There is a lot of unrest in Russia as well and a lot of people don’t support these actions,” Sheremeta said. “Russia has to start paying the price because right now they are not paying the price. It’s funny because Russia is the aggressor but Ukraine is suffering right now, economically.”