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'My heart has been heavy this week': Professor with Ukraine ties watches war unfold from afar

Northwest Missouri State University media professor says the conflict is hitting close to home for him
Posted at 12:47 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 13:47:47-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Seeing war erupt in real-time has left many feeling shaken. For some, the Russian invasion of Ukraine hits close to home.

Bob Bergland, associate professor of mass media at Northwest Missouri State University, says seeing the place where he once taught and lived turned into a warzone feels unreal.

“The troops and everything going on there. It hits home," Bergland said. "It’s really tough to see those images and to see this country and the places that I’d been being under siege.”

Bergland visited Ukraine first in 2005 when he taught young Ukrainians about the importance of a free press in their still very young democracy.

“I was welcomed so warmly by the Ukrainian people and treated with such love and respect," Bergland said. "So I have a strong bond with the hospitality that was shown to me when I was there.”

He fell so in love with the country and its people that he moved his family there for a year and had plans to teach there again this spring before COVID canceled the trip.

Now, the country he once called home has been turned into a war zone.

“My heart has been heavy this week because of the things they’re going through," Bergland said. "In the town that I taught in, Lutsk, one of the cruise missiles hit the military airport right outside of the city where I lived. It all started to hit very close to home for me.”

And his former students are fleeing for their lives.

“He was in Kyiv and was able to get out to the city but there were huge traffic jams," Bergland said. "So what was a four-hour drive to Odessa turned into a 10-hour nightmare. So he escaped to Odessa. But Odessa was also attacked. I'm not sure there's too many really safe places in Ukraine because of the threat of invasion."

Bergland has been glued to the TV to see awaits those he loves while admiring their strength in the face of adversity.

"They are a proud, independent country," Bergland said. "They’re distinct from Russia. So it doesn’t surprise me at all given their spirit that they would fight so much.”

Bergland said seeing the continuing coverage and support from the United States is encouraging to him and his former students.

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