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Finding Refuge from Horrors of War

Collective effort by University partners aids in bringing Ukrainian scholar, psychologist to Montclair

Posted in: Homepage News, University

Pavlo Lushyn poses on campus
Montclair State University has provided Ukrainian scholar Pavlo Lushyn a safe haven for his work.

Since fleeing Ukraine, renowned scholar and psychologist Pavlo Lushyn has found refuge at Montclair State University, where from this new academic – and safe – home, he keeps close tabs on his country, closely following the news and volunteering on the front lines of a growing mental health crisis.

“From the beginning,” Lushyn says of the Russian military invasion, “I have observed not only the state of my own internal psychological condition, but also have witnessed what has been going on inside Ukraine and the traumatic experiences being suffered.”

At Montclair, he teaches philosophy for children, central to the Department of Educational Foundation’s emphasis on morality, ethics and critical thinking to help solve real-world problems. Those skills have come into play as Lushyn fled Kyiv, persisting in efforts to find a home while continuing to help his country, and inspiring a team within Montclair to rally to his aid.

Lushyn served as a visiting scholar at Montclair 20 years ago, collaborating with the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children. The connection paved a path for refuge when colleagues learned that Lushyn was among the 8 million people displaced from the devastated Eastern European country. Collective efforts began within Montclair to untangle red tape and find funding for a faculty position and housing for Lushyn and his wife, Tanya.

“Initially my thought was, ‘I don’t even know how to begin to do this, but something has to be done,’” says Educational Foundations Chair Pablo Tinio.

This type of humanitarian response to a global crisis is consistent with the University’s identity and mission as a public-serving institution. Montclair has helped other displaced scholars, most recently last spring when it welcomed as a professor of Political Science and Law, Roya Saqib, a women’s rights advocate and scholar who escaped the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Flight from Kyiv

In Kyiv, Lushyn served as chair of the Psychology Department at the University for Education Management and the Academy for Educational Studies. He is a widely published author, a recipient of medals from the Ukrainian government and a member of the National Academy of the Sciences in Ukraine.

In a recent interview, he described the hardships experienced since Russia invaded. “The war started at about five in the morning, the 24th of February,” Lushyn recalls. “We didn’t expect that would happen because the Russian troops had been standing on the border for about two or three months. We got used to it. I thought that they were just frightening us.”

As bombs and rockets hit Kyiv, Lushyn recalls, “we were scared and appalled and searched for a place to hide.” Within days, he and his wife made the heartbreaking decision to flee.

They traveled from Kyiv past the city of Poltava, where Lushyn’s parents were born and buried, through Kropyvnytskyi, the city of his youth, through Moldova and Romania, and finally to Hausham, a small town outside of Munich, Germany. Ten days and around 2,000 kilometers after the first bombs hit, Lushyn and his wife began their new life as war refugees living in the basement of a German host’s home.

Lushyn began offering psychological support remotely while taking refuge in Germany, among them helping Ukrainians from the city of Bucha. “The situation was absolutely horrifying, but because I was safe and more or less comfortable, I was ready to work and not project my concerns onto them. If I were in Ukraine, that would be impossible.”

The College of Education and Human Services, Office of the Provost, Office of University Counsel, Human Resources, University Development, Alumni Engagement and countless other individuals and groups on campus contributed to overcoming a complicated process to bring the scholar to Montclair. This fall, he is teaching Philosophical Orientation to Education and Psychological Foundations of Education.

“Unfortunately, Dr. Lushyn joins us because of the horrors going on in his country and the shameful crimes against humanity that are being perpetrated,” President Jonathan Koppell said in his Opening Day remarks to faculty and staff. “It is, in some ways, a very small voice that we raise by being able to welcome Dr. Lushyn to Montclair State University.”

Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren. Photo by University Photographer Mike Peters.

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