22 червень 2022

Oleksii Shershnov: We are fighting for the vision – for the way we want to see our New Ukraine

Oleksii Shershnov: We are fighting for the vision – for the way we want to see our New Ukraine

Interview with Oleksii Shershnov, Vice President of American University Kyiv (AUK). Oleksii is the creator of the idea to open a university in Ukraine with American education standards. It was he who nurtured this dream for several years, looking for resources, investors and partners. And today, when the university has started enrolling students and is ready for its first academic semester, Oleksii is defending his dream of a strong Ukraine with weapons in his hands in the ranks of Ukraine’s Armed Forces. We met with Oleksii to talk about his service, the vision of the New Ukraine, and AUK's place in the reconstruction and revival of our country after the victory.

Oleksii, first of all, thank you for finding time to meet with us while being at the forefront. What are you doing there, what are your new responsibilities?

I am a combat medic. What is it? Tactical medicine is a powerful system, but at the same time, it is a narrowly focused medicine. Its main goal is to save lives on the battlefield. And it is very inspiring in its power and influence. Tactical medicine consists of the leading protocols based on many years of experience. They all are about focusing only on the main things. In critical situations, when adrenaline works, you do not need to know the program of the medical university, but you need to act quickly and correctly. And then you can save a person's life to pass the fighter later to military doctors and surgeons who have the appropriate equipment. By the way, our unit uses optics, monoculars and binoculars donated by our rector, Roman Sheremeta, as part of his mission in Ukrainian House. We are very grateful to him for that!

I see your pseudonym Hornet on your form.

Yes, but most of my combat colleagues call me "hornet" in Ukrainian. Now in the Ukrainian army, you can create your own fighting name.

You are a person who has a strategic vision of the future. What new thoughts and dreams do you have at the frontline now?

Today the battlefield totally represents Ukraine and our society. The war gathered in one trench people of different professions and profiles. For example, in my unit, there is a professional football player who played for the national team. Also, there is a programmer who is here at war, behaving like a real Rambo. But in a peaceful life, he works in an office with a computer in his hands. All layers of society are represented here. And this is important. I am glad that there are a lot of people like me, non-professional soldiers. It is a powerful signal to our enemy that we are all ready to defend our land.

Yes, we, Ukrainians, now all are so united as never before in our dedication to protect our motherland and are proud of our people.

Despite we were not fully ready for the war, what we have here is a clear understanding that we are fighting for our future. We are fighting for a vision – for what we want to see in our New Ukraine. I always have this picture of Ukraine’s future in front of my eyes.

What is your vision of Ukraine?

In fact, we always had a strong vision – an independent and free Ukraine. We are now modernizing it a bit. We are a powerful, creative nation that stands at the crossroads of different civilizations and is an important outpost to protect European values. What prevents us from being rich and happy is our colonial heritage. We had the same enemy for over 800 years. During the last 30 years, it has been called the russian federation. Today, we witness the consequences of this enslavement. We need to cure ourselves of them. Our mission is to fight corruption, to reform our army. For example, in a peaceful life we have the application "Dia" with all our electronic documents, and in the army, there is still a lot of paperwork. We must become wealthy and successful. After this war, our potential for reform will increase. I hope that many fighters will return home and will never compromise with the old system. My forecast is that we will have a party of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and it will have substantial support of society.

How education can be changed in New Ukraine?

Today no one doubts the importance of education and the need in reforming it. Now, thanks to our international partners, we are rearming the army and heavy artillery. We also need to "rearm" our society, teach the skills that are truly needed, make education industrial-based, and widely implement the approaches used in ASU. I am glad that now everyone understands how strongly we need new quality professionals in Ukraine with the profound knowledge of the global best practices and standards.

My dream is to see AUK as even more powerful and a unifying platform of new knowledge for Ukraine. When the news comes of the start of a new educational institution during the war, it gives a powerful signal to our enemy as well.

I am thankful to all AUK partners, the Ministry of Education and Science, who support us in such difficult times. I am grateful to our American founders, and I know that they are all putting pressure on their governments to take a firm stand on Ukraine. I know that AUK founder Kurt Volker is always on guard for Ukraine's interests. AUK’s Georgian partners are our closest friends in the region, as they have a common enemy with us.

Speaking of the future, I think we need to plan a special program for the army. It is one of our new elites. Such programs help our soldiers to fight now when they know: something is being done for them. It can include special training, LLL courses. This shows that military people have a firm future in society. Because not everyone will stay in the army.

You have always been at the origins of big projects. What new vectors of development do you see for yourself, for the country after the victory?

I had several projects before the war, one of which will be especially timely after our victory. This is a project of American Hospital Kyiv. We have many wounded people in the unit. We see how they are treated, and we understand that Ukraine lacks a modern hospital with some features of combat trauma. This is a polytrauma when all lesions must be treated simultaneously. It is not right to think like this – ok, now we postpone the issues with burns, as the fighter faces the leg amputation, and this is a priority number one. It is necessary to have such hospitals that can solve all issues at once.

I believe that the project partners are almost ready to support it. In addition, it would be a powerful impetus and strong base for our university – to open a modern medical school in Ukraine.

Coming back to the vision: Ukraine needs infrastructure for tourism, to host foreigners and show them who we are. And this is even more relevant now with the status of a candidate for EU membership. In addition, Ukraine can become a technological leader. In our DNA there is a talent for large-scale technological projects. They can include engineering, mechanical engineering and, other technologies. Many people will return from the frontlines, and they will start rebuilding the country.

How can we become stronger after winning? Do you have recipes? Maybe we should follow the Israeli model?

Firstly, I believe this war will be the last one at least with the enemy who wants to destroy specifically Ukraine. This is a long-term russian intention. We have no other enemies.

We will be really like Israel. At the same time, we will be like NATO countries in training and protocols. I think our American University Kyiv can also teach such protocols with the focus on sustainability which is useful in both war- and peacetime. In addition, Switzerland has an interesting model that requires annual military training. This is an opportunity to refresh the current skills and gain new ones. Then the country is more prepared for extreme situations.

For example, this is what was a challenge for me personally. We were not able to get to the training centers first and then to the frontline. Experience shows that it is better to pass the landfill first so that the explosions near you were controlled. Everyone reacts differently. There are people who can't stand explosions, but there are some who can get used to and later treat them like fireworks. Therefore, annual training is a useful practice. A trained person knows how to act on the battlefield and has a better chance of saving a life. Therefore, the Swiss model is also important to consider.

All this will need to be carefully studied and implemented by our politicians. This is our new reality. Today, Ukraine’s Armed Forces are an important element of our society in all areas, including politics. It is also a sign of belonging to the creation of the New Ukraine. After all, a Warrior is a person who did not compromise but went forward, often realizing that this could be his or her last time.