Dr Max Koghut is a Lecturer in Management at Kent Business School. He is from Ukraine and moved to the UK in 2012. Many of his family remain in the country, at incredible risk.
As a University, Kent is helping those affected by the war in Ukraine in many ways including council for at risk academics, hardship funds for students affected by the war, alongside money raising initiatives such as bake and book sales and directing staff towards the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Here, Max shares his personal anguish at what is unfolding back in his home country and his fears for family left behind.
“I was born in the centre of Ukraine, if you put your finger in the map of the country, you land there. It is a beautiful town called Cherkasy, situated on the river Dnipro. The scenery of mountains and forests is breath-taking, and the people are friendly and kind. While I moved over to the UK to study in 2012 and now live here, I have family still back in Ukraine. The war is very real, and I am living it every day.
My father lives in Ukraine, in a remote area. He doesn’t want to leave. He’s old, he will not leave his dog or his home. He knows how bad the violence is spreading but he cannot yet foresee it reaching his hometown. Perhaps when it does, he will want to get out.
We speak every day, more than once. It’s funny, neither of us care for phone conversations and so rarely did we call one another before. Now, we spend hours chatting idly away. We are desperate to hear one another, to comfort each other from afar. Often our conversations drift to the ‘what ifs’, which room would be the safest to stay in when the shelling comes, how best to protect himself. Conversations I couldn’t have even imagined just a few months ago.
My wife’s sister lives in Kyiv where shelling is tearing everything apart. She cannot leave, as she cares for an elderly relative at her home. She works as an assistant surgeon in the local hospital, he carries out heart operations on small children. Her job is important, too. This week, a rocket hit 400 yards from their home causing huge devastation. My wife’s grandfather has now caught Covid-19, but they can’t move him into hospital because of the bombs. Instead, my wife’s sister uses her medical expertise to do what she can from home as the explosions rain down on them from the outside.
How do I feel? I feel so completely helpless and guilty. Almost every day I am questioning if I should be there with them, fighting and protecting my loved ones. Every single day I have this dialog with myself. I am also overrun with concern and fear, for those I care for, for all Ukrainians, particularly the innocent children and family pets. I see those familiar buildings and the streets covered in debris, it just fills me with immeasurable shock and horror. I feel I am sleeping, and this is just a bad dream. That it is a horror movie I am watching.
When I talk to my relatives, I try to comfort them, to say everything will be fine, that there will be a solution – but who am I to say this? I have no idea what their fate will be, how can I try to make them feel better for their situation?
That’s why I am pleading for people in the UK to help the people of Ukraine by offering up their spare rooms or donating money to charities who are helping those affected. I hope people can see that the world has changed forever and that comfort zone you thought you had, it has now gone. Ukrainians need your help now. It’s the time to show solidarity and do something remarkable.
The people of Ukraine are good people, they are proud. They will want to get back to their own cities one day. Just six months of sacrificing a spare room could mean so many go on to live long and happy lives and have a future to look forward to. Deep in my heart, I believe God has not left Ukraine, therefore neither should we over here in the UK.”
If you know of any Ukrainian academics who may be at risk, please contact email@example.com.
The Government has launched the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme. This scheme allows individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to offer refuge to an individual or family from Ukraine who are fleeing the war. To find out more, please visit the Government webpage.
If you know of any students from Ukraine, Russia or the wider region who have been impacted financially by the tragic events of the last few weeks and require financial support, please ask them to get in touch with our Financial Aid Office and see the Emergency Funding webpage.