Ukrainian-born doctor offers answer to question from West Texans

Dr. Sergiy Nesterenko, MD, FAAOS
Dr. Sergiy Nesterenko, MD, FAAOS(Grace Clinic - Covenant Health)
Published: Feb. 24, 2022 at 6:01 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Ukrainian American doctor in Lubbock has written a statement in the hopes of answering a question he says many of his fellow Americans are asking in light of recent world news.

Why do we care about the conflict in Ukraine?

Dr. Sergiy Nesterenko, an orthopedic surgeon at Grace Clinic who has lived in West Texas for almost eight years, said many of his patients, knowing his Ukrainian descent, have offered words of support following report of military forces from Russia entering Ukrainian territory, beginning a rush of deadly conflict and global uncertainty.

Introducing a letter that Dr. Nesterenko shared with KCBD on Thursday, he said while talking about his homeland and how much Ukrainian people appreciate help and support from Americans is more straightforward in person, he’s offering his thoughts in writing so that people who don’t know anyone from Ukraine and eastern Europe may connect to it and see why it may matter here in the US.”

Read the full statement from Dr. Nesterenko here:

“I was born and raised in Ukraine near the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine. I went to medical school there and started working as an orthopedic surgeon. I came to the United States to advance my training in 2006, and in 2014, the same year of the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity, I moved to West Texas, the land of freedom.

“It is somewhat ironic that I moved from a former part of the Soviet Union, the empire of tyranny, to Texas, the freest of the free, the land of liberty that I now call home. After living here for almost eight years and visiting my parents back home, I am amazed at the many similarities between the freedom-loving Texans and Ukrainians.

They made terrific strides from tyranny to freedom.

“I feel that my experience is unique in that I can compare the two countries. I learned about liberty, hard work, self-reliance, and attitudes to life from my fellow Americans. And now, when I go back home to Ukraine, I can see many of the same qualities in my Ukrainian friends.

“Many of them made fantastic progress from relying on the government (and being heavily controlled by it) to being responsible citizens in control of their destiny. I used to say that the most significant difference between Ukraine and the US was ubiquitous post-soviet paternalism. Well, these days, less and less.

“So, back to our question: Why do we care about Ukraine? Is it worth sending them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid? Isn’t it just a corrupt kleptocratic eastern European country that no one should care about? Is it worth risking a war with Russia over Ukraine? Why even the argument? They are not going ever to join NATO. Why do we even care? Why not just focus on our domestic issues, of which we have plenty?

In my opinion, there are two closely connected ways to look at this: pragmatic and emotional. Let me try and put it in simple terms, the way I look at things.

The pragmatic outlook is geopolitics: To enhance our geopolitical position and promote our values and way of life, we need to support allies worldwide.

“Of course, supporting democracy doesn’t always work. It didn’t work in some recent clashes, but it worked in the past: Korea’s best example comes to mind. What would happen if the US didn’t intervene and allowed the communists (Soviet Russia) to take over the entire Korean peninsula?

“Everything that Russia touches turns into a communist utopia, which in reality equals a concentration camp: North Korea, Cuba, East Germany, Venezuela, every occupied territory in the former Soviet republics. Do we want them to keep expanding their power? In the 21st century, would we rather have several North or South Koreas in the world?

From an emotional standpoint: we live in the land of freedom and need to support people who share our values.

“Ukrainians and Texans have many similarities in their outlook, as they are both freedom-loving people. Like in Texas, Ukrainians care about simple things: their families, ranch, cattle, and home. And they don’t want anyone to mess with them!”

Here we say, “Don’t mess with Texas!” Ukrainians make it more specific to fit their situation, “Putin, back off!” They made it one of their slogans during the Revolution of Dignity in 2014: “Just leave us alone! Let us do our thing on our land!”

The current war in Ukraine is an existential war of civilizations: a tyrannical power coming from the northeast is trying to crash a young democracy.

“Americans built the best county in the history of humanity, and we enjoy the liberties and the resulting development growing from them. Our moral responsibility is to support those who share the same values: human dignity, rights, the free entrepreneurial spirit.

Is Ukraine a democracy?

I find it disturbing when some of the very respected people claim Ukraine is not a democracy, and for that reason, we should not stand by it.

“Ukrainians have made significant progress over the last thirty years since independence. It is a young democracy, and it has its problems. But they have a freely elected government, and they have a developing civil society that keeps this government in check. They decentralized the power and gave the regions more autonomy, injecting growth in them.

Even though its politicians may have authoritarian tendencies, it does not make the county an autocracy: the people control the government, and the elections are open.

As one of the previous Presidents famously said: Ukraine is not Russia!

The West is sometimes irritated that Ukrainians don’t listen for the best advice. We give them our intelligence; we recommend they do or not do something, and they turn around and do their thing!

“While Ukraine has a long history, its newly regained independence marked only thirty years in 2021. By human standards, it is probably the period of puberty when the young grown-up rebels against parents and the more experienced siblings. Despite our sound advice, they may not listen to us and do counterproductive things, and well, they need to learn certain lessons on their own.

“One more important point: Ukrainians are willing to fight for their freedom. On February 20th, 2014, only several days after senator John McCain visited the Maidan, Russian snipers started shooting protesters. One hundred people died in one day. Weeks later, Russia annexed Crimea and occupied the eastern part of Ukraine, the Donbas. Ukrainians never stopped and kept fighting. In 2022, together with the regular armed forces, ordinary citizens join the territory defense to learn to use firearms and military tactics.

“They don’t ask for the NATO troops on the ground but are thankful for our aid: Javelin anti-tank rockets, Stinger air defense missiles, weapons, and ammo. Is it enough to stop Russia? Probably not, and Ukraine needs more support, but they are in much better shape now. To a large degree, precisely because of the American support.

“I am very thankful to my patients, who wish the best to Ukraine. I also want my fellow Texans to understand what this fight is about: Ukrainians fight for the same values that make this county the best place on Earth in human history.

Let’s help them pull through this challenge. The world will be a better place with more liberty, and the USA will be more assertive while having other allies. It is the only way to build a free world.”

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