David Nasr-Zalubovsky on Organizing Support for Ukraine


Angelo Angel

David Nasr-Zalubovsky

Conservatory third-year David Nasr- Zalubovsky is a violin major who grew up in Ukraine and came to the United States when he was 16 years old for a gap year after high school. Recently, he has been involved in organizing events and fundraisers alongside members of OC Ukraine to support Ukrainian armed forces, state actors, and civilians who are resisting the Russian invasion that began Feb. 24. We sat down with Nasr-Zalubovsky to discuss his letter to Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, the challenges and successes OC Ukraine met in its efforts thus far, and what the group is looking to accomplish in the future.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you give an overview of your work so far and what you have planned moving forward?

So far, we’ve started the group OC Ukraine. We didn’t make it an official school organization yet, but we do have an Instagram page. We have been working on raising funds for Ukraine and we also did the protest, where we sent out two letters — one to the school, the other to Senator Brown — with our concerns.

Can you briefly discuss talk about what you wrote in your letters?

The letter to the school was written by another Ukrainian student, [College first-year Diana Tymochko]. I worked on the letter to the senator, and I basically explained how we think that the United States, by choosing to not oppose Putin’s genocidal behavior because of fear of future escalation, is making Russia stronger. The U.S. is undermining its own integrity as a leading nation by not confronting Putin directly for his crimes and not holding him accountable.

Ukraine’s problem does not seem to have a clear long-term solution because, being so close to Russia — which historically has an aggressive and violent expansionist culture — Ukraine can never be fully safe unless there is no aggression coming from the Russian side. I think the only way to stop the Russian aggression is for a change of government in Russia, but the only ones who can really do that are the Russian people. This dilemma involves the security of other previous Soviet republics and Eastern Bloc allies, some of them already members of the EU and NATO. Putin poses the greatest threat to global safety and security since World War II, and I feel that it’s important to communicate that to Oberlin students because there have been several students on Instagram posting stories basically labelling us as Nazis for supporting a country that is being genocided.

If Putin comes out victorious from this war in Ukraine, he will not stop at that; he’ll feel like he has to continue on to other neighboring countries, always maintaining the threat of nuclear power as a deterrent against NATO interference. I feel like the U.S., U.N., and NATO have not been looking at this problem from that perspective. It’s not just a local Ukrainian-Russian conflict, but rather a long-term strategic challenge that has to be stopped completely or contained without the possibility of a repeat scenario. Ukraine’s collective response — the people, the military, the parliament, and the president — have been doing a great job, I think beyond anybody’s expectation. I hope this spirit continues stronger than ever in peacetime. We’re building up Ukraine and beyond with emphasis on self-determination, inclusive economic growth, and shared prosperity for all layers of society, not just the privileged.

Do you currently have family in Ukraine?

Part of my family is in Ukraine right now. My grandmother is in Ukraine and I have a bunch of friends there too. Every day I’m talking to them and they’re telling me these horrible things that are happening — how they’re forced to make molotov cocktails and are not able to leave their homes. Then going on Instagram and seeing Oberlin students who seem to be just repeating Russian propaganda from TikTok without analyzing it is really upsetting, because those people have large amounts of followers. We just started the OC Ukraine account and it has 155 followers. So it really just undermines our work.

Would you say the turnout for the protest, and other events like the bake sale and poster making, were what you expected?

Yeah, we are really happy with the funds that we were able to raise so far. I think altogether with the bake sales and the fundraisers that we did in Mudd Center, we raised over $3,000. I think we also raised $1,100 in cash just yesterday at the faculty concert for Ukraine, and more through Venmo. So we’re doing pretty well. We were also asking the College to match the amount that we raised, but I don’t know if they’ve responded to that yet. College third-year Andreea Procopan has been taking care of the financial part of everything.

Is there anything that you’d like to say for students who might not know how to get involved or who want to participate more?

If students are interested in helping out, they can email me or message @oc_ukraine on Instagram. We’re welcoming everyone who is willing to help. They can sign up for slots for the fundraisers — we just need people to sit in the lobby of Mudd or the Conservatory and collect money for Ukraine. I’m the only Conservatory student in the group and I don’t really have free time during the afternoon, so if there’s someone who would like to sit in the Conservatory lobby and fundraise, that would be good. Students can also help by signing the two letters we wrote: the statement to the College and the letter to Senator Sherrod Brown.