For Chapman University Fowler School of Law Professor Michael Bazyler, the growing refugee crisis created by the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine is more than just a horrifying international news story. It’s a reflection of both his heritage and personal experience as a Russian-speaking Jewish refugee who came to America with his Holocaust survivor parents in the 1960s.
“I want to help out folks that were in a similar situation as when I came to this country as a refugee,” said Bazyler, who holds dual U.S. and Polish nationality. “I feel like it’s my time to step up. I already have three children, but I feel like I have a fourth daughter named Ukraine–and that fourth daughter needs my attention.”
Bazyler has initiated a project titled “ДітиМатеріТранспорт: Ukrainian Mothers and Children Transport,” a name meant to evoke the late 1930s Kindertransport program that allowed 10,000 Jewish children to enter the United Kingdom from Nazi-occupied Europe on the eve of World War II. His plan is to ask Ukrainian and Jewish communities in California to help enlarge the pipeline needed to relocate even a fraction of the nearly 3 million refugees who have fled to Poland to other locations.
To this end, Bazyler has already recruited the help of current and former Fowler School of Law students who can donate their time and resources to connect with activists and nonprofits to provide complimentary legal services to Ukrainian refugees–for whom Bazyler says one of the easiest ways of coming to the United States is via Mexico, specifically through the border just south of San Diego.
“It’s a helpless feeling, watching atrocities happen halfway around the globe,” said Laura Evans, a first-year student at the Fowler School of Law who hails from the San Diego area. “I wanted to help because it felt like a way to effectuate change from a legal perspective as well as a humanitarian one.”
Evans—who was a student in Bazyler’s Civil Procedure class—says she and fellow Fowler School of Law 1L Sasha Seagull are mostly acting as “points of connection and communication.” This includes staying on top of breaking news related to the refugee crisis, identifying media contacts, and reaching out to both those who can help and those who need assistance.
“I came to law school with the intent of using my degree to help marginalized communities, whether through litigation or policy,” Seagull said. “Working with Professor Bazyler on this project gives me the opportunity to gain hands-on experience doing my part to alleviate this humanitarian crisis. Once our project is fully up and running, we want to ensure that we are serving this vulnerable population to the best of our abilities.”
Although “Ukrainian Mothers and Children Transport” isn’t officially a Chapman University project, Bazyler considers its efforts part of his responsibility as both a faculty member and a member of the local community. “One of the things we’re supposed to do, if we want, is engage in social action,” he said.
It’s a view echoed by Fowler School of Law Interim Dean Marisa Cianciarulo. “Professor Bazyler’s project represents the type of community outreach to which we should all be aspiring,” she said. “Not only will it provide a crucial service for local refugees, but also invaluable real-world pro bono experience for our students.”