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Eyewitness to the Russian Invasion: Interview with Ukrainian Scholar Constantin Sigov (Church & Society)

March 3, 2022

Dr. Constantin Sigov, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kyiv and Director of the Center of European Humanities Research responds to questions while in Ukraine during the Russian invasion last week.

February 23: Hours before the invasion

Have you felt understood by the Western media and political commentators?

For eight whole years many people have not called this war by its real name; instead they have kept referring to ‘the Ukrainian crisis’. But now it’s no longer a secret for anyone that it is ‘a Russian crisis,’ Putin’s regime being its culprit. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the seizure of cities and villages in the east of Ukraine led to the occupation by Russia of territory greater in extent than the territory of the whole of Switzerland or Belgium. Thousands of Ukrainians have been killed, and millions have become refugees, forced to flee the occupied territories.

February 24: Beginning of the Invasion. Early morning

Please, say anything… How are you all?

Just one day earlier I thought that the threat of invasion was simply a distant but threatening nightmare. It was the first time in my life that I woke up like that. Kyiv also woke up at five o’clock in the morning under bombardment. The strikes were very loud; it was obvious that the war had intensified in a virulent way.

Photos of Kyiv shows the inhabitants of the capital fleeing by road. Are you still in Kyiv? What do you observe among the civilian population?

There are, of course, people lining up to fill their gas tanks or stock up on food, but there are more Ukrainians in Kyiv lining up to donate blood in hospitals. There is a determination to be together, to enter into resistance, not to give in to the invasion, not to succumb to this barbarism. Many civilians, fellow educators like me, have recently – and today even more strongly – joined the local defense.

February 26:

Where are you now? Where is your mother who was in Kyiv during Hitler’s invasion?

My family –– my wife, my younger children and my mother – are now in the basement. We sleep on the floor, but it is warm. I cannot disclose the place through social media. It is forbidden.

Is Europe’s reaction equal to the situation?

It is not for me to say. Everyone has to do their best in the position in which we find ourselves. I, as a scholar in Kyiv, have my task; the political leaders in Paris and Brussels – theirs. But I think the time has come for each of us to do much more than what has already been done. European decision-makers must understand that firmer action is now needed. If they aim to resist the Kremlin’s madness, France and Europe must choose real solidarity.