From their Antarctic base, the excruciating helplessness of Ukrainian scientists

Measure, observe, analyze… Do your job like a scientist “as best you can”. Because they can hardly do anything else, because that is their “way of participating”. For a dozen Ukrainians stationed at the Vernadsky Antarctic base, the cold bites less than helplessness, 15,000 kilometers from their war-torn country.

“At first we could not sleep for several days, we tried to follow the news from our cities all the time. Now we check at the slightest free time, ”writes Anastasia Chikhareva, a 26-year-old meteorologist, in messages. to AFP from the Ukrainian base.

Located on the island of Galindez, 1200 km from the tip of the Argentine Tierra del Fuego, the base, ceded in 1996 by the UK, is occupied by a dozen people all year round. This southern autumn the temperature ranges from -3 to +1 degrees, but in winter it can drop below -20.

Their daily life: weather, geophysical, geological, biological observations, when the weather permits, because the team can sometimes get stuck in a snowstorm for a whole day. And for a month, a kind of “combat work” at a distance.

“My first impression (of the war) was that everything was taking place in another universe and not in our own world. But my wife in Kharkiv (East) heard and felt the missile strikes ten minutes after Putin started this stupid and criminal war. I get to the heart of the matter in the blink of an eye,” says geophysicist Alexander Koslokov.

– Anguish and pride –

“I didn’t have time to think, to be demoralized. I had to help and advise my family in order to survive and escape from my city, 40 km from the Russian border, before they turn into a fiery hell. Everything that I thought or really was subordinated to this goal. His family managed to get to Germany.

Undated photograph of the Ukrainian Antarctic base named after. Vernadsky, issued on April 5 (Ukrainian Antarctic Station “Akademik Vernadsky”/AFP – Handout)

Daily commutes, free Sundays, gourmet dinners all together on Saturday nights: life, between snippets of war news, goes on but “inevitably less festive” at the base that bears the name of a 20th-century geochemist of Russian and Ukrainian origin.

Between two angry posts about Vladimir Putin, everyone is like Artem Dzhulai, a 34-year-old biologist, saying: “It’s hard to be so far away from your family and not be able to support them.”

“There is a whole range of emotions here,” summarizes Oksana Savenko, who studies humpback whales. “Sadness and longing for our loved ones, but also high morale and pride in our army and our people, who courageously fight for their right to live in a free country.”

“We get up at 2:00, 7:00 in Ukraine to find out how their night went. I can’t start working until I see a message from the family that everything is in order, ”says Anastasia.

Here is good advice, there is moral support, donations to the Ukrainian army, signing a petition, recording online courses to “entertain Ukrainian children” … scientists racked their brains trying to “help”. Even if it means realizing that their mission may simply be to continue to provide it.

“We try to do our scientific work as best we can. This is our military work,” says Anastasia.

– See Ukraine again –

“Ukrainians hold on, help each other, help our army. I’m proud of them. Therefore, I try to be strong for them, for my country. anonymity.

Undated photograph of the Ukrainian Antarctic base named after.  Vernadsky, issued on April 5 (Ukrainian Antarctic Station
Undated photograph of the Ukrainian Antarctic base named after. Vernadsky, issued on April 5 (Ukrainian Antarctic Station “Akademik Vernadsky”/AFP – Handout)

The distance, which increases helplessness, makes them emphasize the importance of helping Ukraine. Like Artem, he is still bitter about the “indifference of democratic countries” to the Crimea annexed by Russia in 2014. “They thought that other people’s suffering would not affect them directly (…) but all this can change if this Evil is not stopped.” “Don’t get tired of Ukraine!” Anastasia pleads.

In April, the team will be released after last year. The future for beginners is uncertain, although, like Anastasia, many want to “go to Ukraine as soon as possible.” But after ? “I don’t have a real project. I have no idea what to do in the coming months.”

“My university in Kharkov, the research institute where I worked, were destroyed,” says Alexander. “I will have to decide what to do after I join my family in Germany. Maybe first try to continue your work as a scientist in Europe or America…? We’ll see in time.”

Leave a Comment