Amid Crisis in Ukraine, Walsh Community Unites to Pray, Host Discussions

As a way to help our community better understand the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, Walsh University held a prayer service and panel discussion in the Marlene and Joe Toot Global Learning Center on campus. Over 100 students, faculty, staff and visitors came together to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine who are under attack and fleeing their country.  The evening included music by the Walsh Chorale and a prayer service led by University Chaplain, the Rev. Tom Cebula, and special guest, the Rev. Vsevolad Shevchuk (Fr. Sal), pastor of Holy Ghost Ukrainian Church in Akron, Ohio. Father Sal came to the United States from his native Ukraine when he was 17 years old and has many relatives who still live in Ukraine.  

“Have mercy on us and on the land of Ukraine,” Father Sal prayed.  “Let the words spoken by Moses onto the people of Israel be applied to us: Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, for the Lord shall fight for us, work for us a sign of good, that they, who are filled with hatred may see our faith and be humbled and shaken.”

In his introductory remarks, Walsh University President Tim Collins, who served as the panel moderator, strongly condemned the unprovoked and unjustified military aggression by Russian President Vladimir Putin against free Ukraine while explaining the critical role higher education plays in facilitating discussions around issues that are difficult, complex and emotionally charged.

“For the first time in 80 years, war rages on in Europe,” he said.  “These actions taken by Russian leadership – diplomatic, military and political – are reprehensible and morally wrong.  It’s just plain evil.”

Dr. Collins encouraged the audience to use this as an opportunity look at the situation from all sides and to be open to different perspectives.

“The challenges the world faces are many, and it is important at a moment like this to take stock of that situation and our own obligations as global citizens,” Dr. Collins said.  “Our program tonight affords us the opportunity to participate in a conversation that seeks a peace-filled path to ending this human tragedy.”

The panel was comprised of two Walsh University professors, a Walsh alumnus who lived in Ukraine as a Fulbright Scholar and is a graduate student in Slavic and Eastern European studies at The Ohio State University, and a community member who fled Ukraine in 1993 as a refugee to the United States. 

While audience members wrote questions on notecards to be read by the moderator, each of the panelists introduced themselves and described their unique perspectives. Associate Professor of History Rachel Constance, Ph.D., went first, explaining that history never looks the same because the context changes.

“As historians, when we look at events of the present, we start to see echoes of patterns that happened in the past,” Dr. Constance said.  When I look at the situation that’s currently happening in Ukraine, the Russian invasion, and all of the propaganda that’s coming out of the Russian Federation, I see a number of historical events that it is imitating.”

Associate Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs Bill Davis, Ph.D., whose research interests include the influence of security threats in domestic politics on foreign and economic policy making, shared his views on globalization.

“We’ve been living under the impression that globalization marches forward and continues.  It looks like it’s received a 1-2 punch with COVID-19 lockdowns and the war in Ukraine,” Dr. Davis said. “Globalization is being challenged.  Factory jobs may be coming home.  Undeniably, whatever happens, the face of globalization will be changed forever.”  

Philip Kopatz ’19, who has friends in Ukraine, described how some have been hiding in metro stations and trying to escape danger while others are taking up arms to fight for their country.

“Many people were worried Ukraine’s military would not be able to stand up to Russia’s military,” he said.  “After 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, and then supported Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, the United States and other NATO member countries poured billions of dollars into Ukraine’s military, so they’ve been preparing for this for over eight years and have been engaging in active war in Eastern Ukraine for those eight years. This renewed war has made Ukrainians more Ukrainian.”

Elizabeth Kaplan, who came to the U.S. with her husband and child in 1993 and still has family in Ukraine, said that although they had been expecting President Putin to invade Ukraine since Russian forces occupied Crimea, it still came as a surprise when it actually happened.

“We were always thinking Putin would change his mind,” Kaplan said. “Even after all of this military practice around the border for the past two months, Putin and his cabinet were reassuring everyone they were not going to invade Ukraine. He still denies it is war. He’s lying.  He’s referring to it as a special military operation.”

The panel continued taking questions from the audience for an hour, including how the world food supply chain may be impacted, what can Americans do to help the Polish people support the Ukrainian refugees, how social media usage in Ukraine has changed the way the world consumes news, and thoughts on how the war ends.

MaryBeth Edmundson, a sophomore Blouin Scholar majoring in professional writing and philosophy, is a member of the Walsh University Chorale.  After performing Light Beyond a Shadow, she joined the audience for the prayer service and panel.

“I was honored I was able to sing with the choir at such an important event that provided students an accessible way to learn about what’s happening in our world,” she said. “History is unfolding around us and it’s important to remain knowledgeable of these events. The panel gave students the opportunity to do just that.”

Martin Nadwodney, a senior Biochemistry major, attended the panel discussion hoping to learn whether or not there are similarities between this crisis and what happened during the Hungarian Revolution during the Cold War and to understand the dynamics of this specific war.

“The panel helped me to understand that there were several different factors responsible for the current Ukranian-Russian War,” Nadwodney said.  “While I condemn Russia’s use of jet force and artillery to kill civilians, I cannot blame all, or even the majority, of the Russian people for this crisis.” 

He also expressed sincere concern for Kaplan’s relatives and friends in Ukraine.

“They are vulnerable to Putin’s airstrikes, artillery bombardments, and they need prayers and support from all of us if they are going to have a chance of survival or escape,” Nadwodney said.  “I hope this panel has unified public opinion around the need to dedicate prayers and send whatever support we can in the form of food, water, clothing and money to the Ukrainian people.”

Walsh University anticipates continuing this discussion later this spring with Phil Breedlove, retired Four-Star General, U.S. Air Force, who served as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe in NATO.  For more information on General Breedlove’s talk, and similar events, visit

To watch the video recording of the panel, click here.