Ievgenii Shulga “Eugene”  ·  Ukraine

A Ukrainian Scientist on the Russian War, Hard Work, and Human Rights

Edited by Nicole Taylor
Photography by Meredith Kelley
Ievgenii Shulga “Eugene”
Ievgenii Shulga “Eugene”

Hi, my name is Ievgenii Shulga but I ask everybody to call me Eugene because it’s much easier to pronounce and to remember.

In Ukraine, I worked as a scientist - holding a doctoral degree - and as a professor in the Department of International Law at Kyiv University. My specialization was in international law, particularly international environmental and energy law. People often think that being a professor is dull, but it was my calling, and when you pursue your passion, you never see it as work. So, I believe I was simply enjoying doing my wonderful job.

You know, we (Ukraine) are part of the Western civilization. When I talk to my peers here, I don’t see much of a difference between us, even though I grew up in Ukraine and they grew up in the USA. We were raised on the same principles, watched the same movies, went to school, played soccer, bowling, and billiards, spent time with friends, and so on. It’s all the same here. Now, reminiscing about my childhood, there’s a fire in my eyes. it was truly a wonderful time.

Moreover, we have a lot in common. For example, Ukraine also varies from region to region, just like the United States. Western Ukraine boasts numerous mountains and rivers and is truly beautiful. It’s akin to West Virginia. The eastern part of Ukraine closely resembles Kansas. It’s flat, with many plains in certain areas. I grew up right in the middle, in the city of Kyiv, and it will always be my homeland.

However, currently, we are going through difficult times… we face this cruel, Russian war.

In the first day of the war no one could believe it. I woke up at 5 am because of a call from my good friend. He was the first secretary of the Bulgarian Embassy in Ukraine. He said wake up, it’s begun.

The last two weeks before the war were very tense, mostly psychologically. Everyone talked about a possible invasion, even the airspace over Ukraine was closed, but no one expected the Russians to dare start a major war in the middle of Europe. We were not prepared for that. And then, that first morning, I heard explosions, somewhere in the distance. I looked out the window and saw a lot of people in the streets, not knowing what to do, trying to buy groceries in bulk, as everyone understood that if the Russians came, everything would be destroyed.

The first week of the invasion, some enemy combat units broke through to the streets of the city, but our military destroyed them. Then, for about two months, there were battles near Kyiv, and we didn’t know from day to day whether Kyiv would be captured.

All this happened because of dictatorship, which is the main enemy of civilization. When one man, one dictator, makes all the decisions in the country, it is very dangerous, and the Russian war in Ukraine is evidence of that. That’s why democracy is extremely important. Human rights and democracy have been and remain the greatest inventions of Western civilization. And in the last 200 years, human rights have gone through three generations, with the fourth generation now forming. We are sending spaceships into space, exploring other planets, trading with each other, globalizing this world, and yet the dictator decided to return us all to the 19th or even the 18th century - reviving the policy of territorial expansion. No one does this in the 21st century. It’s barbaric.

Here, in the US, I wouldn’t say that I have completely changed my life. I am a visiting professor at the University of Kansas and conduct comparative legal research on the legal framework of energy security in the US, EU, and Ukraine. My task is to search for an optimal model of legal regulation, policy, and practice in the field of energy security, particularly focusing on developing a concept that will strike a balance between environmental and energy components. Additionally, I work with the Della Lamb organization, which assists refugees. This activity is similar to what I did in Ukraine after the start of the hybrid Russian war in 2014. In 2014, we had many refugees from Donetsk, Luhansk, and other eastern parts of Ukraine, whom we helped, so I was prepared for this work here because I know how difficult it is to settle in a new place when your home is destroyed and there is war in your country.

Every displaced person faces a multitude of challenges, such as housing, food, language, medical insurance, employment, documents, and more. Therefore, I do everything in my power to help and support my compatriots. Unfortunately, in October 2023, Congress did not approve the budget for Ukrainian refugees, and this became a significant challenge. Ukrainians who arrived after September 30, 2023, cannot receive any benefits at all. So we try to help as much as possible. We provide free medical screening, conduct English courses, assist with paperwork, housing, and job searches, although our capabilities are limited. It breaks my heart when people cannot receive primary assistance. For example, we have two elderly ladies living in Sedalia. They are in their 60s and need constant medical assistance, but because the budget for Ukrainian refugees has not yet been approved, they cannot receive Medicaid.

It breaks my heart because we can’t provide the amount of help they need. They are Ukrainians. I was one of the refugees, and their needs are close to me.

We Ukrainians need to find jobs because we are hardworking people who strongly believe in success through hard work. We just need support for the first period of time.

But work is not the main reason I came here. I had international projects in Europe, but I came here to join my sister and two nieces, to make their lives easier as displaced persons. She really needed help with the children. She fled from the war. So my main goal was to help my sister and nieces, and then, when they become self-sufficient, I can continue my path.

For the older one, for Yulia (13), adaptation was normal, she socialized very quickly, but for the younger one, Diana (10), adaptation was a bit more difficult. She felt very uncomfortable and refused to go to school. But now she is learning to play the piano, plays soccer, and her adaptation is much, much better.

Only my mother is still in Kyiv. She’s a senior lady - 70 years old. On one hand, I reassure myself that now it’s a safer place than it was a year ago, as we received anti-missile ammunition thanks to the United States government. She feels comfortable there, unlike me, as I worry a lot about her. She has friends there and doesn’t want to listen to anyone, although I dream of her being here. You know, in Ukraine, it’s mostly matriarchy, so you can’t tell a woman, especially your mom, what to do, she always has her own opinion.

I miss her, and my homeland, especially in peaceful times. Sometimes I miss some small things, like espresso, which is literally sold on every corner in our country. I noticed that Americans mostly prefer to drink other coffee. Familiar places, smiling people, crowded streets... But that was before the war. Now everything is different.

What message would I tell people? I would tell people that I strongly believe in biblical principles, and the Bible teaches us to be strong. I believe in justice, compassion, and love. Let’s give hope to those in need. Ukrainians are suffering right now, and let’s give them hope for rebuilding their lives here and in Ukraine. Let’s help each other and love one another, the Bible teaches us how to do it.

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