Seed World

10 Steps of Surviving in War Conditions Part 4

Read part one, part two and part three.

Science During the Occupation

I want to draw attention to the problems of science at TSATU. The scientific material base has been completely seized. We have lost 1,800 hectares of fields and 63 hectares of orchards where elite cherry varieties were grown. Equipment and machinery from 12 laboratories were stolen from TSATU (mushroom and quail cultivation laboratory, quality laboratory, food production laboratories, unique collection of wine materials laboratory, educational laboratory-cafe, irrigation system, etc.). Digital equipment that was used during the field experiments (drones, video cameras, a database of research results for the last five years) was also stolen.

I would like to emphasize that the occupiers stole 2.5 thousand tons of the grain crop and 150 tons of the elite cherry crop. And the money from selling this harvest would have been put back into developing our material base of the university.
The occupiers also seized the recreational center — the Salyut — based on the coast of the Sea of Azov, which has always been open to teachers and students. Many events were held here: conferences, meetings of excellent students, a health camps for students, recreation for teaching and support staff!

An apiary was seized from which honey was produced for the staff, as well as for sale.
All these funds were used for the development and needs of the university, and, unfortunately, are currently in the hands of the occupiers.

Relocating Science

Today, we have restructured the scientific laboratories based on the available equipment. The vice-rector for scientific work has developed a plan for publishing the results of scientific research by scientists of TSATU.

The laboratory base of the university was an example not only for our region, but also for agrarian and food universities throughout Ukraine. Our university has been actively conducting scientific events and hosted participants of Olympiads, conferences, seminars, etc. in various fields, which demonstrates the importance and the level of development in comparison with other educational institutions.

Today, my team and I are trying to find support in various areas to restore and return to the walls of the university after the de-occupation of the city.

Science: Future

Based on the experience of the Kherson State Agrarian and Economic University, we are confident that during the de-occupation, all the property of TSATU in Melitopol will be stolen. We are in dire need of help recreating scientific labs. We are ready to open new branches of scientific departments of other universities to conduct joint scientific research. We expect assistance from international foundations and partner universities for the supply of laboratory equipment and computer hardware. We are in dire need of renewal of seeds, grains, fertilizers, plant care products and reagents for experiments. Today, we have already experienced the stealing of agricultural machinery from farms in Melitopol. We are also not sure that the agricultural machinery of TSATU will remain in full stock after de-occupation. If there is any possibility to support us and provide us with agricultural machinery, we will be extremely grateful. We understand that we will definitely win and return, there will be a need to cultivate the land of our university’s farms, but the question arises: how to do it, what will remain after the occupiers.

Software and Hardware During the Occupation

During the occupation, the issue of the material and technical base of the educational process became critical. Therefore, from February 24 to May 27, 2022, the university administration organized the night shifts of employees in educational buildings to prevent looting and theft of machinery and equipment. After the occupation of TSATU, the occupiers stole 18 multimedia white boards, 50 projectors, 1,100 personal computers, 50 printers and scanners, and two drones. Due to the seizure of classrooms with personal computers resulted in the loss of the software used in the specialties of computer technologies, computer engineering and design, computer engineering of food and processing industries, agroengineering, food technologies, geodesy and land management, agronomy, and marketing. Our teachers wanted to keep part of the material base and managed to take some of it out of the university at the time of the occupation. However, most of them were taken to the military commandant’s office in Melitopol. It was dangerous for them to stay in the city. Some of the teachers’ personal possessions were lost during house searches in Melitopol and seized during filtration process.

Relocating our Software and Hardware

Thanks to the cooperation with USAID and German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) funding, the university purchased four powerful servers (for hosting websites, the Educational Portal, the educational process management system, accounting, and information resources of the scientific library), 110 laptops (to ensure remote work of university staff and teachers), and 13 printers and multimedia projectors (for interactive events). This assistance made it possible to ensure the educational process and the vital activities of structural units. My team and I are trying to find all possible ways to get involved in various projects at different levels, but unfortunately, this is not enough to ensure the existence of the university.

Software and Hardware: Future

We will be very grateful to our partners for their assistance in purchasing multimedia equipment, personal computers, and laboratory equipment. It is extremely important for us to cooperate with international funds and large agricultural companies of Ukraine to restore of farming on 1,800 hectares of land. Our 2022 harvest was stolen, and we lost the opportunity to plant 2023 harvest. We need to replenish our seed stock of wheat, barley, and corn varieties. We are not sure about the safety of irrigation systems, machinery and spare parts, repair shops.
Finances During the Occupation

And I want to dwell on the last problem, for the solution of which we have taken certain steps, but which is still relevant. From the very first days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the banking system of Ukraine ceased to operate in the occupied territories, including in Melitopol. Only a few tellers of three banks were open, which at that time served more than 100,000 people. People had to stand in queues for 3-4 days to get cash from banks and buy medicine from pharmacies. People were given a number in the queue to each bank, and often this queue was more than 2,000 people. People stood in lines in the cold weather for more than 3-5 days. At the same time, the university’s accounts were frozen, making any financial transactions was impossible. In the summer, we lost part of the income from the stolen crop. TSATU was practically left without financial resources. And it was necessary to update the material base in the relocated educational hub “Tavria” and to pay salaries and scholarships to students. The situation worsened in the fall when students who were in the occupied territory were unable to pay for the contract because their accounts were blocked.

Relocating Finances

The Administration and the Supervisory Board were forced to take strategic measures. In the first days of the war, on my initiative, an agreement was made with the administration of Privatbank about the designated day of the week and the time for servicing the TSATU employees and despite those difficulties all salary payments were made. I also organized the payment of bonuses to all employees of TSATU on the Day of Education (September 2022) and the Day of the Agricultural Worker (October 2022) to support the team. The Supervisory Board made a proposal to postpone student payments under contracts until the moment of de-occupation. The Chairman of the Supervisory Board assisted the Ministry of Education and Science on the transfer of students from the contractual form of education to the state funded one.

Finance: Future

2022 was extremely difficult for our university, as it brought us a lot of grief, pain, sorrow, and challenges that we could not even imagine until now. We solved many financial problems to keep the staff and students at the university. But the issue of restoring the university remains very important for us. We plan to create a financial fund for the TSATU alumni. We are also open to cooperation with international funds because we really need help. Today, our main task is to maintain our positions and return to Melitopol. However, in the future TSATU should become a base for the revival of the agricultural sector of Southern Ukraine through the training of modern specialists and innovative research in agriculture and the food industry. A year of war has passed. TSATU lives, works, and maintains its educational front.

This was a year of hardening, courage, human dignity, and a year of struggle for the Statehood!
The main result of a year of the war — Ukraine survived! TSATU survived! We all survived! We will, of course, win, return to our native Melitopol and continue to rebuild and develop our university. This is our dream and our goal.

I am confident that this year will be a year of Victory for us and a return home – to the Ukrainian Melitopol and to the walls of our native TSATU.Glory to Ukraine!

Editor’s Note: You can support Dmytro Motornyi Tavria State Agrotechnological University by donating:

Company name: TSATU
IBAN Code: UA303133990000025206055700238
Name of the bank: JSC CB “Privatbank”, 1D Hrushevskoho str., Kyiv, 01001, Ukraine