Quinnipiac hosts global officials to mark anniversary of war in Ukraine

Quinnipiac University’s Central European Institute held a conference about the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine War on Feb. 25 in the Mt. Carmel Auditorium in the Center for Communications, Computing and Engineering.

President Judy Olian opened the event with a short speech following a few initial comments from CEI Director Christopher Ball.

“This is a somber moment, commemorating a year-long invasion of Russia on Ukraine,” Olian said. “We have to remember that this is not a happy anniversary, and there is nothing to celebrate other than the admiration and resilience of the Ukrainians.”

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and other U.S. and international officials attended a conference in Quinnipiac University’s Mt. Carmel Auditorium on Feb. 25 to mark the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Casey Wiederhold)

The event, titled “Passing the One-Year Mark: How the Ukrainian Displacement Crisis Shapes European and American Policy,” was sponsored by the Novak Family Polish Chair and multiple student-run organizations, including the Quinnipiac Democrats and College Republicans.

The conference featured multiple panels and speakers, including scholars, diplomats, global policy experts and lawmakers such as Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Not a single chair in the auditorium was unoccupied. Many guests trickled in and out as the panels progressed, listening to the panelists talk despite the snowy weather.

Blumenthal talked about his recent visits to the war-torn country. He said he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy both before and after the war began.

“America has really come together in support of Ukraine.” Blumenthal said. “And my goal is that I go back to Washington and to make sure we continue to do so.”

At that moment every Ukrainian unfortunately felt what war is like. They’ve experienced how it feels to remain in a country under constant Russian missile attacks, while hiding their children in cold basements with only a prayer to survive.

— Oleksandr Vasiuk, member of the Ukrainian parliament

However, 8 million Ukrainian people, mainly women with young children, fled their country in hopes to escape the horrors they were facing. Some of those came to the U.S., including to Connecticut, with the hope to either one day return home or start a new life in the U.S, according to Blumenthal.

“(Refugees) should be welcome in this country.” Blumenthal said. “I want to say that I will be offering legislation called the Ukrainian Adjustment Act.”

The Ukrainian Adjustment Act will provide a path to a permanent status for Ukrainian refugees who are currently living under a temporary status in Connecticut.

Blumenthal pointed out that those refugees need assurance that they can safely stay in this country.

“(Ukrainian refugees) are bringing us the talents, the energy, the gifts of intelligence and cultural enrichment, just like those who came here once and made the United States,” Blumenthal said.

The conference also featured a pre-recorded message from Oleksandr Vasiuk, a member of the Ukrainian parliament who could not attend in person.

“Exactly one year ago, the country of Ukraine woke up to explosions. At that moment every Ukrainian unfortunately felt what war is like.” Vasiuk said. “They’ve experienced how it feels to remain in a country under constant Russian missile attacks, while hiding their children in cold basements with only a prayer to survive.”

Several speakers reiterated the resilience of the Ukrainian people, including Monika Palotai, visiting researcher at Hudson Institute, and Jacek Czaputowicz, former minister of foreign affairs of Poland.

The event also highlighted groups in the local community that are providing aid to support Uranians. The Ukrainian Humanitarian and Soldier Relief Program at St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in New Haven, Connecticut, accepts monetary and item donations.

The Connecticut for Ukraine Refugee Matching Program is for Ukrainian refugees who wish to live in Connecticut, and is administered free of charge by volunteers who are dedicated to finding safe homes. The program is organized by Murtha Culina LLP and the Honorary Consulate of Romania to Connecticut Dana Bucin.

(Left to right) Romanian diplomat Cornel Feruta, Consul General of the Republic of Poland in New York Adrian Kubicki, Director of the Hungary-based Migration Research Institute Viktor Marsai and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland Jacek Czaputowicz spoke at a session on Feb. 25 about bordering countries’ response to the Ukrainian war and refugee crisis. (Casey Wiederhold)

Bucin spoke about the efforts of Romanians to help those fleeing from the war in Ukraine at the conference.

“The efforts of ordinary Romanian citizens, lining up for miles at the border with cars to pick up the Ukrainian refugees to house them and feed them in their own homes,” Bucin said.

Bucin said her efforts working as an immigration lawyer in 2022 at the southern border in Tijuana, Mexico, helped around two thousand Ukrainian refugees into the United States. Bucin and Nayla Rush, a senior researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies holds a doctorate in Migration Studies, attested to the U.S. response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis and brought attention to the antiquated asylum system.

Bucin said the current asylum system takes “18 to 24 months optimistically to resettle refugees in the United States, and it’s actually inept and inadequate for an emergency such as the Ukraine.”

During a panel on global and American challenges, Rush spoke about the European Union Temporary protection. This protection specific to Ukrainian refugees will entail benefits that allow them an opportunity to thrive in the wake of the devastating war, such as access to employment. The protection has been extended to March 2024 to expedite admission that avoids overwhelming the standard asylum system.

“I first went to Ukraine before the invasion. And I came back and I said to my colleagues and the president, that our intelligence gives Ukraine about three to five days before the Russians take Kyiv.” Blumenthal said. “But I knew, these people are going to fight to the last person.”