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Saturday, September 30, 2023

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Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led to mass protests in Kyiv and around the world. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led to mass protests in Kyiv and around the world.

Ukrainian SDSU Alumni Share How Russian Invasion Impacted Their Lives

Two Ukrainian-born Fowler alumni anxiously await news from their family and friends on a daily basis.
By Suzanne Finch

As the war in Ukraine has captured worldwide attention, two Ukrainian-born alumni from the Fowler College of Business at San Diego State University shared how the invasion is impacting their lives and their families, and the increasingly deadly situation unfolding in their native country.  

Roman Levytskyy (‘09, MBA and ‘12, Ph.D., biology) and Galyna Goncharenko (‘05, MSBA) were both born and raised in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine declared its independence on December 1, 1991 and set up a democratically elected central government shortly before the official collapse of the Soviet Union three weeks later.

Both continue to live and work in California. Levytskyy is the associate director of medical affairs at Exelixis in Alameda,  and Goncharenko is a senior manager at FICO in San Diego. 

Goncharenko and Levytskyy say that from their perspective, the reason Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month was Putin’s desire to expand his control of the region. 

“While in power, Putin planned and executed military missions of ever-growing scale against his neighboring countries and countries farther away,” said Levytskyy. “For the last 10 years or so, his main focus was on building his war and propaganda machines, with dreams of dominating all the neighboring countries and rebuilding the USSR, plus pursuing more conquests, if he is allowed to.” 

Goncharenko echoed this sentiment, saying, “the invasion has to do more with Russia’s desire of control and restoring a ‘Russian Empire’ than anything else. All reasons for the invasion that Russia comes up with are only excuses for this horrible crime.”

With many friends and family members still in Ukraine, Goncharenko and Levytskyy are anxiously awaiting news from them on a daily basis. Goncharenko has a brother in Kyiv and extended family in the eastern city of Kharkiv. 

“They’re all in the middle of this nightmare,” she said. “I check in and connect with them daily to make sure they’re alive. There are constant bombings and shelling in the residential areas.” 

Levytskyy’s elderly parents are in Lviv, near the border with Poland, and he said they are “relatively untouched by the war” for now, though they are dealing with a massive refugee crisis. 
“On the other hand, my wife's large extended family were living in the capital city, Kyiv and they all had to flee abroad to escape the airstrikes and warfare in that region,” he said. “Some of them lost their homes to missile strikes and artillery attacks. We are glad they are all alive, since you can rebuild the house, but you cannot raise the dead.”

According to Goncharenko and Levytskyy, there are many ways Americans can help the people of Ukraine. Levytskyy recommends Americans:
  • Donate to charities that support humanitarian efforts in the areas that are affected by war. This includes medical assistance, evacuations, food and supplies.  
  • Donate to organizations that support the various needs of refugees in the host countries. The refugees need to find a place to stay, food and clothing since a lot of them had to flee with just clothes on their backs or a small backpack with bare necessities. Many need psychological support — they’ve either lost family members, or left their husbands, fathers and brothers back at home to defend Ukraine. A lot of them would like to finish their studies or find temporary jobs, so they can do something useful and not be a burden to the countries that kindly agreed to host them. There are organizations that provide support in all those areas.

“Hopefully, this invasion into Ukraine will finally persuade world leaders of the necessity of introducing strict policies and measures against authoritarian governments early on — before they are able to inflict major damage to their neighbors and to their own country,” said Levytskyy. “I believe that Ukraine, with the help from Western allies, will prevail in this fight for freedom, but the costs in lost lives and destruction of the economy to Ukraine, Russia, Europe, and the world will be massive.”