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Ukrainian struggles touch UNF

Dr. Tetiana Momot with Dr. Andres GalloWar has now been raging in Ukraine for more than 100 days. No one understands the tragedy of this reality better than Dr. Tetiana Momot, a visiting instructor from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, located about 30 miles from the Russian border.
“It’s very painful, very painful to watch the news,” said Momot, though she continues to follow the war closely. “I get news all the time about what is going on, and I hope and pray … I can’t believe that this could happen in the 21st century.” Recently, she saw images that show the damage to buildings at the university where she taught — the O.M. Beketov National University of Urban Economy in Kharkiv. For the near future, certainly, there’s no going back.
Coping with the war
Momot has been teaching undergraduate Principles of Microeconomics in the Coggin College of Business since August 2021. Working with students at UNF has helped her to cope. “I so enjoy teaching and working with the students,” she said. “I’m so appreciative because they were interested in the situation. We even worked on a project about the economic consequences of the war.”
The visiting instructor is also grateful for her business colleagues, who she said have helped to create a family environment for her and Boddan Chalyy, her college-age son. “I feel like family here,” she said. “That is for me very important, especially in this situation. When I came from a faraway country, I felt that family support and this is very important for me and my son.” Her married daughter remains safely in Asia with her husband.
Her journey to the United States began years ago. As a graduate student, she took advantage of several international exchange opportunities at Kansas State University and then again at DePaul University in Chicago. Years later, her husband, who was a U.S. citizen, had concerns about safety in Ukraine and encouraged her to remain in Jacksonville. According to Momot, tensions with Russia have been building for many years.
Then, on a visit to see his family in Macedonia, her husband contracted COVID-19 and died. Now, she and her son, who has enrolled at UNF, remain in the area. Wanting to continue teaching, she reached out to UNF to ask about opportunities.
Dr. Russell Triplett, chair of the Department of Economics and Geography, said that Momot’s background in financial and construction economics and her research and teaching experience at a business college were a good match for the department’s needs. The department plans to renew Momot as a visiting instructor for next year. “She has been a great addition to our department,” Triplett said, “and we’ve really appreciated her working with us and teaching for us, and so that was a pretty easy call, but given the circumstances, I think it was absolutely the right thing to do.”
What the future holds
For the past few months, Momot has also been teaching some of her former Ukrainian business students online, yet realized more help was needed. On her initiative, a project in Coggin is underway to create online workshops and classes for her students, many of whom are refugees scattered around central and eastern Europe.
Andres Gallo, director of Coggin’s International Business Program and professor of Economics, and Kate Mattingly Learch, director of Study Abroad, are working with Momot to leverage UNF’s faculty expertise to allow these students to make progress in their business degrees, hoping to give them a sense of continuity in a challenging situation. “We asked UNF for help to see what we could do,” Gallo said. “In the end, we are asking faculty members to volunteer. We are trying to put together classes for the fall semester that will allow these students to receive credit from their university in Ukraine ... We have a unique opportunity because we have Tetiana here, and she is in contact with these students — and it creates a very real and tangible opportunity for us to help.”
To move the program forward, Interim President Pam Chally sent a letter to President Babeav, president of O.M. Beketov Kharkiv National University, explaining the ways UNF can support their students. "In addition to online business classes through Coggin, the Ukrainian students will be able to enroll in a dedicated noncredit English as a Second Language course taught by UNF’s Language Program, at no cost to them," Chally said. "The bravery and spirit of the Ukrainian people are an inspiration to the world, and our University wants to assist them as best as we can."
As the online project develops, Momot will continue to work with her students over the summer. Though she longs for the war to end, she knows her countrymen will not give up the fight for freedom. Many, just like her, had family killed years ago under Russian rule, and they have no desire to go back. “With the help from so many countries, I believe our army should win the war,” she said. “I hope and pray.”