Brussels terror attack was ‘personal’ for two Auburn professors

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AUBURN, Ala.- Valentina Hartarska and Denis Nadolnyak were in Brussels this past spring on sabbatical.

They say they loved the area for its vibrancy, diverse culture and much more. The terror attacks this past week did not resemble the Brussels they knew.

Hartarska had gone to Brussels back in 2008 when she was asked to help with the University of Brussels’ masters program. She went back several more times with the most recent being this past spring while she was there on her Fulbright Scholarship working on her research project.

Valentina Hartarska, her husband Denis Nadolnyak and their daughter in Brussels

Her and husband, Nadolnyak say the attacks this week were ‘personal.’ “You’ve been to these places,” Hartarska said. “These are the places where we had a normal life. You had a normal visit, and now I can not even imagine how people going to the metro and look behind their shoulders all the time and are worried. You just feel extremely powerless.”

Hartarska says she first heard the news of the attack on the way to work, but learned more about it when she finished teaching her first class. She immediately went to the computer and started to learn that her colleagues still there were OK. She says she was happy that her colleagues were OK, but hearing the number of people who lost their lives and who were injured brought sadness and disbelief to her.

Nadolnyak says while they were in Brussels, they did not feel threatened, butsays  the constant threat of attacks Brussels in under now is not good for the residents. “It’s a dangerous world,” Nadolnyak said. “We feel quite awful saying to our friends, ‘We hope you feel safe in Brussels or I hope you’re safe in Europe.’ Europe used to be one of the safest regions of the world and now, it no longer is.”

The two hope the area and the rest of Europe can return to a sense of normalcy.

The two are still uneasy after the attacks, but the couple says their daughter is extremely uneasy since Valentina may have to go through Brussels in April. “When I said I probably need to go there, she started crying saying ‘Mama, please don’t go there,’ Hartarska said. “So, it’s very hard for me to decide what to do on a personal level.”

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