Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Dennis Truax, then serving as ASCE president, reached out on behalf of the Society to the three ASCE members in Ukraine to offer support.

“As president of ASCE, I always felt a responsibility to the members and the Society,” said Truax, now serving as 2023 past-president. “I use the term ‘servant leader’ often, and that describes the role I internalized. It was not me reaching out on my behalf, but on behalf of all our members – 150,000-plus in 177 countries – to ask if we could be of assistance to our own.

“This is one way that ASCE is a family of professionals.”

photo of ASCE member in Ukraine with family Oleh Mazurkov
ASCE member Oleh Mazurkov with his family - wife, Tanya, daughter, Olesya, and Brockie the parrot - in Ukraine.

A year later, with the war still raging, a unique friendship has grown among that ASCE family of professionals. Truax and one of those ASCE members in Ukraine, Oleh Mazurkov, C.Eng, M.ASCE, have stayed in touch, trading email after email. Correspondence about the war gave way to talk about civil engineering; then to stories about their families, trading photos, and even a video from a brief holiday in the mountains that Mazurkov and wife and daughter took as they hope for a return to normalcy soon.

“The friendship with Oleh has emphasized two things,” Truax said. “One, just how much alike we are. His family has many things in common with mine. His dedication to his work and the profession is unchanged. He finds joy and satisfaction – and even humor – in the work he does.

“The second, and likely more important, thing he demonstrates is a resilience in his acceptance of the situation. As stressful as their lives are, they continue on.

“Knowing that an air strike could take everything away in a flash means they embrace every moment and take little for granted. For example: going into the courtyard and relaxing with a drink (beer) rather than sheltering in the hallway of their apartment, justified, in part, by the premise that they are more vulnerable in the building (a larger target) than sitting on the bench outside (small target).”

A recent note from Mazurkov to Truax, shared here with their approval, provides both a window into the friendship and a snapshot of war:

Thank you very much for your letter and for your concern for our country and Ukrainians. … Despite the war, we have a working country – an energy sector and relatively small inflation, considering the war.

“Yes, periodic missile and drone attacks on our cities, especially Kyiv, are a little stressful. Most anti-aircraft missiles are shot down. Something is always flying in – we now hear explosions. They were near our house recently.

“There are problems with electricity. It turns off according to schedules somewhere in the mode of five hours there is light, four hours there is none. I bought a charging station so that there would be light, and I could work on the computer. Beer, a bit of wax, and old Hollywood movies help for mental balance. Watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “12 Angry Men” These are definitely masterpieces!

“I work, additionally I make calculations in Abaqus for a German company - also some income. My wife teaches English as a freelancer, and my daughter is due to start online classes at the university (international journalism) in March. We are also entertained by our parrot.

“In general, it would be normal if the end of this war could be seen, but so far something is not visible... Therefore, there is an element of depression, which rolls in waves, then subsides. …

“Well, another air alert... But I'm at work, my wife and daughter are at home... These are unpleasant moments... Oh, they wrote that it was Russian aviation that took to the sky in the territory of Belarus with a potential threat of launching missiles, which are not intercepted. This often happens, and no one runs for cover from it. In the shelter, this is when rocket launches are recorded. This happens about once every two weeks.

“This is how we live.”