Ridgewood’s Victor Rud hoped to subvert notions of Ukraine’s relationship with Russia by painting a detailed picture of the war for the 100 participants at a Knights of Columbus fundraiser in Clifton on Sunday.
“Bombs were recently found in milk cans, distributed in shops that were still open. A bomb was discovered in a piano at a kindergarten. Children are being tortured,” Rud said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to “destroy the very notion of Ukrainian identity”, he said.
His lectures on the subject, which he has given to the National Association of Scholars, the US State Department’s Foreign Service Institute and the US Military Academy at West Point, aim to counter a “widespread fog or confusion about identity of Ukraine”.
“I always thought Ukraine was just an offshoot of Russia,” said Michael Rice, a devotee from St. Philip the Apostle Parish, where Rud spoke.
Ukraine’s history is one of a “democratic and egalitarian” society, as opposed to Russia as “a vertical state with someone at the top”, Rud said.
“The separation of powers, of church and state, was a constitution that Ukraine wrote 77 years before the United States,” he said. “It was the first democratic constitution for representative government in Europe. You didn’t have any of that in Russia.
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Rud said one of Putin’s arguments for war – kyiv as the cradle of Russia – makes as much sense as Rome being the beginning of Romanian history. He said it was like trying to argue that “Italians are really Romanians”.
Rud, whose parents came to the United States from Ukraine as refugees during World War II, has published work in Forbes, EU Today and Kyiv Post, among others.
Petrop “Peter” Paluch, a Rutherford resident with ties to Ukraine, agreed with Rud’s analysis and the importance of having a clearer picture of what is happening in Ukraine.
“There are no more facilities because the hospitals have been bombed,” Paluch said. “We only get a trickle of that from the news. I hear that every day from people I’ve known there for 30 years.”
Clifton’s Diana Paparella enjoyed the conversation that came with her $10 pancake breakfast.
“It was very informative. He talked a lot about history that people don’t see on the news. He brought to light a lot of issues that I didn’t even know existed,” she said.