By CHRISTINA LARSON, AP science writer
Anton Vlaschenko often hears bombings outside his office in Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, not far from the front line of the war. Sometimes he even sees smoke rising from Russian tanks hit by missiles.
But the 40-year-old zoologist continues his work, dissecting and labeling bat tissues, while researching the ecology of flying mammal disease. When the news of the war overwhelms him, he says, it helps to have something familiar to do with his hands.
He also sees it as an act of defiance.
“Our stay in Ukraine, our continued work, is a kind of resistance to the Russian invasion,” Vlaschenko said via Zoom, an audible background bombardment. “People along with Ukraine are ready to fight, not just with guns. We don’t want to lose our country.”
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His decision is not unique. Like other Ukrainians whose work is not essential to the war effort, scientists and academics want to continue their important work wherever they can.
A common saying is that they want to stay connected to their academic community, which provides a snippet of normalcy amid chaos and violence, and “keep alive the light of Ukrainian science and humanities,” said Yevheniia Polishchuk , which teaches in Kyiv. University.
As deputy chairman of the Council of Young Scientists of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, Polishchuk organized an online survey of academics to assess their situation and needs after the February 24 invasion. An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 scholars had left Ukraine in early April, mostly women with families, but about 100,000 stayed.
Most of those who went abroad ended up in Poland and other places in Eastern Europe, obtaining temporary positions in European institutions. Some scientists have received grants from the Polish Academy of Sciences, the US National Academy of Sciences, and other organizations. Polishchuk, now in Krakow with her children and her husband, is a visiting professor at a university during the months of May and June, but says she hopes to return to Kyiv when the fighting stops.
“We don’t want the war to translate into a brain drain from Ukraine,” he said.
While Ukrainian scholars are calling for help from international scientific bodies, including opportunities for remote work and access to journals, data sets, archives and other materials, there is also a desire to prevent the war from permanently undermining the war. talent and the impetus of the academic and professional ranks of the country. , which will have to be rebuilt after the fighting stops.
“Most of our scholars do not want to go abroad permanently; they want to stay in Ukraine, “Polishchuk said.
Shortly after the start of the war, Ivan Slyusarev, a 34-year-old astronomer, helped the director of the Kharkiv National University observatory move computers, monitors, and other materials to the basement, which had protected equipment and artifacts. when the Nazi forces occupied the city during World War II.
The main telescope of the observatory is located in a field in the Russian-occupied territory, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Kharkiv on the Donetsk highway. Slyusarev said he did not know his condition, but believed that Ukrainian forces blew up a nearby bridge to stop the Russian advance.
He relies on scientists outside Ukraine to continue his work. Astronomers in the Czech Republic have sent him observational data from his telescope so he can continue to analyze the properties of metal asteroids. You can also see data from a small robotic telescope in the Canary Islands of Spain. It operates mainly from a home office on the outskirts of Kharkiv.
Slyusarev, who says he became an astronomer because of “romantic” ideas about stars, finds refuge in scientific discovery. Astronomy “only produces positive news” and is a welcome respite from everyday life, he said.
“It’s very important in times of war,” he added.
After the start of the war, the theoretical physicist and astronomer Oleksiy Golubov left Kharkiv to meet with his parents in Batkiv, a town in western Ukraine.
Although the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology buildings were “bombed and bombed and virtually destroyed,” Golubov said, the school continues to offer some distance learning classes. He has been in contact with students online: in Kharkiv, in western Ukraine, and in Poland and Germany.
The 36-year-old scientist is also the coordinator and coach of Ukrainian students preparing to compete in the International Physics Tournament, a competition to address unresolved physics problems that is being held in Colombia this month. The students, who had been training online, met this week in Lviv for the first time, after the train journeys delayed by the war.
“We still want to get involved and show that even inconveniences like war can’t stop us from doing good science and having a good education,” he said.
Golubov, who was rejected for joining the army due to a paralyzed hand, presented an article in March in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics and wrote in the acknowledgments: “We are grateful to the Ukrainians who are struggling to stop the war so that we can safely review this article. “
Some scholars, such as Ivan Patrilyak, dean of the history department at the Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv, have signed up. Eighteen months ago, he organized a series of lectures on the legacy of World War II and gave lectures on the Holocaust. Now, he is with a territorial defense unit in Kyiv.
Igor Lyman, a historian at Berdyansk State Pedagogical University, had to flee when Russian forces occupied the port city early in the war. Before leaving, he had seen troops enter the dormitories to interrogate students and order administrators to teach in Russian, rather than Ukrainian, and use a Moscow-approved curriculum. He said the directors “refused and resigned.”
He later settled in a camp for internally displaced persons at Chernivtsi National University, living in a dormitory with academics from Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Kherson, and other cities.
“Each of these families has its own terrible war story,” he wrote in an email. “And everyone, like me, dreams of our victory and coming home.”
He said Russian forces “are doing their best to impose their propaganda.”
Kharkiv zoologist Vlaschenko wanted to protect 20 bats in his charge from the bombing, so he took them home for about an hour. It also helped preserve its valuable research, which could not be easily replaced, although buildings and laboratories could be rebuilt after the war.
“Everyone who decided to stay in Kharkiv agreed to play this dangerous and potentially deadly lottery,” he said, “because you never know which areas would be affected by a new rocket or a new projectile.”
As he strives to record data and safeguard his rare samples, he sees it as part of his mission: “not just for us, but for science in general.”
Follow Christina Larson on Twitter at @larsonchristina and AP war coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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