Growth of Ukrainian Catholic University the epitome of hope in country's troubled times

Ukraine — Alex Kuzma
Age: 58
Profession: Chief development officer at the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation
Lives in: Connecticut

In addition to the bitter cold of Connecticut's recent winter, you have suffered the piercing chill of the political situation in Ukraine. What does this mean to you?

The winter we endured in Connecticut this year was nothing compared to the brutal cold that our friends in Ukraine endured for three long months, standing in the sub-zero temperatures on Ukraine's Independence Square and facing off against riot police and government snipers.

Why does the Ukraine's pro-democracy movement matter to you?

I think this movement should matter to everyone in the world that cares about human rights and human dignity and what our Founding Fathers called "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." I care about this movement as the son of Ukrainian refugees who fled Ukraine during World War II. As children, my parents witnessed horrible brutality at the hands of the Nazis and the Soviets. Both families narrowly escaped being deported to slave labor camps in Siberia, and my mother witnessed a firing squad in which every 15th man in her village was executed by the SS because their community had sheltered Jews from the Holocaust.

The Ukrainian people have been striving for freedom and for a just society for more than 400 years. They've endured genocide, mass starvation, the brunt of two world wars, Stalin's purges, ethnic cleansing, and persecution on a scale that is hard for any American to fathom. I want to see the world community stand in defense of Ukraine. In recent months, we've been inspired by the hundreds of thousands of people who spoke clearly about their passionate desire for democratic change and an end to government corruption. If the United States and Europe fail to defend their right to self-determination, this would be a tragedy. Not only a tragedy, but a disgrace.

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