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Meet the Ukrainian university professor who gives lectures from the trenches

Professor Shandor is on the frontline, defending Ukraine from the Russian invasion. At the trenches of this frontline is where he held exams of his students.
Meet the Ukrainian university professor who gives lectures from the trenches
Article by: Yuliya Solyanyk
“It is my duty: I am fighting for an erudite and civilized nation against uneducated barbarians who rape women and kill children.” Ukrainian professor Fedir Shandor traded his university for the trenches, but not his students: he continues teaching and holding exams. In this exclusive interview, he tells how life looks like from the frontline of the Russia-Ukraine war.

“The war of the civilized world against Russia on the territory of Ukraine will definitely change the world. War is the last argument when there is a lack of knowledge, culture, and morality. Today’s youth – who created drones, quadcopters, and starlings – are the future, not rusty tanks and rapists.”

Fedir Shandor

Fedir Shandor, a 46-year-old Ukrainian, was born and raised in the small town of Uzhhorod in Zakarpattia, the westernmost oblast of Ukraine. The place itself is known for being a melting pot of cultures since the region borders four countries.

As Shandor mentions, “My last name has a Hungarian origin since loads of my relatives are Hungarian and live there even these days. My dad is a half-Hungarian and half-Slovakian, and my mum is half-Ukrainian and half-Italian, so I can confidently name myself as a true Zakarpattia Oblast Ukrainian.”

Being a professor at Uzhhorod National University for the last 27 years, Shandor also got recognition as a doctor in Philosophy, Head of the Department of Sociology and Social Work, as well as President of the Transcarpathian Tourist Organization. “Yet now I’m in the trenches at war with the Russian occupiers,” adds Shandor.

His first experience in the army started on February 24, the day that marked the beginning of the vicious full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“I voluntarily went to the military registration office together with my friends in order to officially enlist in the army. An hour later we were in the barracks, a place where the military training was held,” says Shandor.

For 30 days, together with other soldiers, he underwent military preparation, learning how to operate weapons, quickly respond to army orders, and find courage when there seems to be no hope left. According to Shandor, it was a challenge of both discipline and self-discipline: upholding the right diet, maintaining inner willpower, and expressing simple human respect for other people since “they serve as your rear and your safety during battle.”

“A month later, we were already located in Izium (a town in the east of Ukraine), hiding under constant shelling. Now I have experience of almost 100 days of the Ukrainian-Russian war,” says Shandor.

Professor Shandor’s unit. Courtesy photo

His regular day as a soldier begins when the clock strikes 6 AM and everyone heads to have breakfast. The rest of the day is usually spent following the orders given by the army commanders, and only in the late evening do soldiers get to have some rest, and, if lucky enough, sleep. “Yet, one might get a combat duty of staying 24 hours on guard,” adds Shandor. “Those are the times when we sleep in the trenches. But we don’t give up yet…”

With courage and disguised fear, Shandor also reveals the concern that his family has been overcoming every day since he first left home on February 24th. Driven by his patriotic stance, he became one of the first to join the frontline without hesitation, yet the internal panic eventually reached Shandor after the first shellings that he experienced arriving at the frontline.

In my war zone, several mass graves were recently found. You get used to this horror – it’s terrible, not gonna lie, since soldiers, unfortunately, get accustomed to the war. When in reality, the only thing we ought to be acquainted with is peace,” admits Shandor.

While following his military orders, Shandor also manages to combine war affairs together with his work as a professor at the local university back in Uzhhorod. From the first days of the war, with the permission of the army leadership, he continued giving lectures without interruptions every Monday and Tuesday. Stories of his noble actions widely proliferated on social media, with the NY Post and NBC News recognizing his patriotism together with multiple other media sources.

“It is my duty: I am fighting for an erudite and civilized nation against uneducated barbarians who rape women and kill children. The war will eventually end so we must not waste our time, but instead raise the next generation of Ukrainians,” states Shandor.

Yet despite the regular four-hour-long lectures twice a week, most of his students were not even aware of his involvement in the war. According to Shandor, the online classes became ordinary for them, especially since the two past years of the pandemic made everyone accustomed to online education. The lectures ran at a regular pace, even when ongoing explosions interrupted Shandor’s classes from time to time. “We were bombed by aircraft twice, and only then did I put the lecture on pause for a couple of minutes,” says Shandor. The professor’s passion for educating the youth is especially evident when he adds:

“With exam season approaching, I have a hope that the war end is yet to come soon too, and I will peacefully walk into the university class on September 1st, marking the beginning of the new academic year.”

Nevertheless, with volunteers supplying aid and locals welcoming Ukrainian soldiers into their settlement, there still is hope. “Ukraine, a 40-million people country, is now fighting against the 100-million horde of barbarians,” says Shandor, emphasizing the strength of the Ukrainian spirit thirsty for freedom and unabridged patriotism.

“We fight for leading democratic values and serve as a peaceful shield for Europe and the rest of the world. Otherwise, Russians would have raped both cities of Budapest and Vienna, erased the history of London or Paris, and attacked the main competitor – the United States,” warns Shandor. “And yet, I want to thank the American people, the Ukrainian diaspora, and US President Joe Biden himself for their comprehensive support, without which it would be very difficult for Ukraine to defeat the Russians!”

His courage and willpower inspire millions of Ukrainians. Ending the interview on a positive note, Shandor also adds:

“If I’d been afraid, I would not have gone to war with Russia. The spirit of the Ukrainian army and I, together with them, are now taking a second breath, we already have the best weapons in the world and victory is near. Now we are thinking about where to hang the flag of victory: over the Crimean bridge or on the island of Tuzla.”

Slava Ukraini!

Glory to Ukraine!

Drawing by Sashko Danylenko

Yuliya Solyanyk is originally from Uzhhorod, Ukraine. After graduating from Uzhhorod Classical Gymnasium and winning a full scholarship to study in the US with the help of Ukraine Global Scholars, she is now studying at Phillips Academy, a private boarding school in Andover, MA.


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