Dr. Kateryna Pitchford spent the first 21 years of her life in Ukraine, but now calls Conway, Arkansas her home.
She recalls what life was like growing up under communist rule, including 6-day work weeks and rationing of food supplies.
“I grew up in Dnipro, Ukraine, which used to be Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. I was born in 1982, so I was born under U.S.S.R. I remember going to school six days a week. So Saturdays was half a day. My mom went to work on Saturdays, too. She worked at the bank. My dad was in charge of the mail train that deliver mail to Siberia. So he would be gone for several weeks at a time,” she recalled.
“I remember going to the store with my friends, kind of like a grocery store close to home and they would sell you certain number of eggs depending on how many people in your party was standing in line. So if me, my mom and my friends were there, they’ll sell you 30 eggs. If you were by yourself standing in line, they’ll sell you 10 eggs, something like that. So I remember that,” she added.
Pitchford, now an associate professor of business at Central Baptist College, has watched in horror as her home country has been invaded by Russian troops at the direction of Vladimir Putin. Though she’s lived in the U.S. for close to two decades, she is in daily contact with family and friends back home.
“In Dnipro, it hasn’t been as much bombing, I guess in the last five days, there were more bombing than before, but the air sirens go off all the time,” Pitchford said.
Some of her family members are at work all of the time; others are not able to go to work. It has created anxiety and frustration and been a total disruption of normal life. Dnipro is centrally located in Ukraine and is slightly southeast of the capital city of Kyiv. Pitchford said she has been told that an increasing number of cars coming from the eastern war zones have arrived in Dnipro with windows rolled down and white flags hanging out – an indication of children on board.
Pitchford joined Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other state economic leaders last week in Camden for a thank-you tribute to the manufacturing workers in Arkansas’ aerospace defense industry. Companies in Camden are making weapons being used to defend Ukraine from the Russian military. Pitchford, who has represented Ukraine at other public events across the state, said she is grateful for the work being done here.
“The world is much smaller than we think it is. Coming from Ukraine, here I am in Conway, Arkansas, and here’s Camden, two hours and a half away from Conway. And they make defensive weapons that Ukraine can use to save lives of Ukrainian people. So when I was in Camden, it just was a privilege to address the audience who manufacture those Stinger missiles, or all different kinds of defensive weapons. And they probably don’t think every day that it’s saving somebody’s life. And unfortunately, in the 21st century, it is a reality that what they do every day is actually saving somebody’s life,” she said.
You can watch Pitchford’s full interview in the video below.