Ukrainian visiting scholar deeply concerned about loved ones back home as tensions mount

The sights and sounds of war are move terrifying when it’s personal.

"I’m very worried about my family, and about my friends. And about the situation that is happening there," said Valariia Karnaukhova, as she stood Friday on the San Jose State University campus.

She’s a Ukrainian citizen who’s also a San Jose State visiting scholar from Italy. She’s spent the past two days and nights trying to keep tabs on loved ones while her homeland is under attack.

"I’m very worried about them because they’re in the capitol. Many of them spend the night at home, hearing the bombs. Hearing the shots," said Karnaukhova. "They are scared, but they’re strong, and they resist to everything. So it is very worrying."

She said she’s speaking out because she believes it’ll influence policy here, which hopefully impacts Russian aggression in Europe.

A master’s student studying international relations, Karnaukhova participated in a rally in San Francisco on Thursday, calling for an end to the invasion of Ukraine.

Experts said such expressions can come with risks.

"There’s a number of dissidents who have been killed. A number of defectors who have been killed. And a number of journalists, even inside Russia, who have been killed for writing critical articles about Putin," said Professor Kenneth Gray of the University of New Haven.

Gray is a national security expert, and former FBI special agent. He believes the U.S. ratcheting up sanctions may put the world on an even more dangerous path. But, at present, he believes it’s the only viable path.

"This is incremental. We seem to be sleepwalking towards war, like we did in World War I. This constantly ratcheting up of tensions. But at the same time. We’re still buying oil from Russia," said Gray.

He argues severing Russian’s oil spigot would be a defining move, that will either end or escalate the conflict.

For her part, Karnaukhova is imploring America and her allies to stay the course, and choke off Russia’s tentacles one sanction at a time.

"I hear it from everywhere, from all of my friends – European and American friends. And continue to do it please. Because maybe in this way we can stop it," she said.

Experts believe sanctions may have an effect – eventually – in months not days. And each day and night more of Ukraine falls to an invading enemy.