Emerson community weighs in with their thoughts on Ukraine

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Photo: Marcus Cocoa

The sign outside of the Cutler Majestic Theater.

Sophomore visual and media arts major Yujun Liu gets texts from his friend in Ukraine, who updates him on the war he is experiencing firsthand.

“He told me he was awakened by the bombing at 5:30 a.m. and then couldn’t sleep anymore,” Liu said. “He would send me some pictures he took himself, like the supermarket being empty, or the smoke from the bombing close to him.”

Liu is one of many Emersonians to have a personal connection to the conflict in Ukraine. Even those who don’t, however, still feel anxious about the international crisis—and many find themselves openly sympathizing with the plight of the Ukrainian people.

“At this point, I don’t know how much we can do to stop [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, other than trying to continue sanctions and continue to help Ukraine,” said first-year stage production major Alex Lewis. “But anyone who believes that they are in danger, we should help [them] escape,” they said. 

Emerson houses over 500 international students, many of them with residencies in affected or surrounding countries. Shows of support by the college were expected from many.

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“Emerson College supports the people of Ukraine and their country’s sovereignty,” the Cutler Majestic Theater and Paramount marquees read following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The crisis has also been personal for faculty members like Associate Vice President of Campus Life Erik Muurisepp, whose family hails from Estonia—a NATO member state that shares a border with Russia. 

Estonia had been under the Russian regime for over 50 years, Muurisepp said, and had developed a sort of hesitation towards the Russian government, and for good reason. Estonia is located about 700 miles from the fighting, according to Muurisepp, which is about the span of Massachusetts to North Carolina.

“It hits home a little differently with our family and tons of other people,” he said. “We’re not alone in that. [But] there’s a lot of pride—we’ve always been very proud of our heritage—as we saw [our countrymen] really step up.”

Estonia, an eastern European nation aligned with Ukraine, exercised Article IV of the NATO Treaty, calling for emergency consultation with the rest of its allies. For Muurisepp, the country’s response is one with historical significance.

“I was watching some of the news with [my son] and I remember when the Berlin Wall came down, and Estonia got its independence [from Russia],” he said. “It’s crazy to think, ‘Here I am, 30 years later, with my son, watching a similar situation.”

The college remains in contact with students directly impacted by the conflict, according to an email correspondence to The Beacon Vice President and Dean for Campus Life Jim Hoppe sent. 

“Students will likely have varying needs for support, and as in all situations, we will try to work with each individual to the best of our ability,” Hoppe wrote. “We’ll continue with outreach, but also encourage any student impacted by this (or other traumatic situations) to reach out to a campus resource.”

They also believe the sanctions and other impositions on Russia have been effective thus far, but more preparation is necessary going forward.

“At this point, I think the best thing that America and the U.N. can do, because Ukrainians are so admirably determined not to leave and to continue defending, is send aid in whatever way possible,” Lewis said.

Andy Ambrose, a first-year communication studies major, recalled the bravery of Russian citizens in St. Petersburg who protested the war on Feb. 26 and were subsequently arrested.

“I definitely think Putin is in the wrong, and I don’t think any blame should be put on the Russian citizens because I know there was a rally held in St. Petersburg, and a lot of them were arrested,” they said. “I definitely think it could be called Putin’s war rather than Russia-Ukraine.”

“I think prior to this, I was hesitant on Zelensky as to what his response would be because he’s not a career politician, this is his first real spot in political power, but I definitely think that he really stepped up as a leader,” she continued. “He’s doing well by his country by fighting for it and not letting it back down.”