MISSOULA — While many people spent the summer in Montana, one Missoula man spent it in Ukraine providing humanitarian aid to those impacted by the war with Russia.
Montana World Affairs Council executive director Chris Hyslop is sharing his experiences and perspectives with students across Montana so they can form their own opinions about the war.
"The Montana World Affairs Council is a non-partisan, nonprofit and we're dedicated to engaging schools and the community in international affairs to help us understand what’s going on in the world and why it matters to us,” Hyslop said.
That’s why Hyslop was at Sentinel High School this week to give students a clearer picture of the war in Ukraine, why it started, and why it matters.
“What I try to present them is broadly what is happening in Ukraine and how do Ukrainians see it. Ukrainians see this as an unprovoked aggression and an invasion in their country at a time when they want to look to the West and become more part of Europe,” Hyslop said.
“On the other hand, from the Russian perspective, they see Ukraine essentially as not a country at all and really a part of Russia,” Hyslop said. “And what they’re trying to do is bring them back into the fold of the larger Russian community. You can believe what you like but what is important is that at least get the full story.”
Hyslop sent back Instagram stories from Kharkiv and other places impacted by war, sharing the scenes of a place that’s foreign, but if you look closely, also familiar and he shares the stories of those who are surviving a military attack.
"The war came right on the doorstep of the places I was working and the villages and towns in the east and on one hand where you see a lot of destruction of homes, schools and hospitals, you also talk to a lot of people who were traumatized by the experience,” Hyslop said.
From agriculture and fuel prices to the impact on our military families to the debate over U.S. aid, this war does impact Montana. And talking about it with a younger generation can start their own debate about international affairs.
"I think the best thing students can come away with and community members too that I speak with is simply a broader understanding of really what’s going on, the different stories that are evolving out of this in Ukraine and Russia and also here in the United States,” Hyslop said. “We have stories emerging, they are primary political stories about 'should America be supporting Ukraine or should we not be.' Now you can decide as you like on that question but it’s very good to be fully informed so when you make that decision you know why you’re there.”