‘Stalin-esque’ attitudes hold back engineering powerhouse Ukraine, says American aerospace student in Kyiv

Ukraine could be a space technology superpower but the country is held back by “Stalin-esque” attitudes that treat experts like peasants, says American aerospace engineering student Aaron Harford who chose Ukrainian capital Kyiv for his Ph.D. studies four years ago. 

A mid-life divorce prompted Harford, at that time a math professor at Henderson State University in Arkansas, to uproot his life and fulfill his two life-long dreams: to spend time in Ukraine, the homeland of his ancestors, and to pursue a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. The experience turned out to be even more life-changing than he had expected. Not only did he witness the build-up to the most serious armed conflict in Europe since World War II, but has also gained unique insights into the ailments of a place that has all the prerequisites to be a technology superpower, but is held back by more than 30-year-old ghosts of an overthrown political regime.