Ukrainian students discuss impact of war

Members+of+the+Future+Leaders+Exchange+Program+%28FLEX%29+outside+the+United+States+Embassy+in+Kyiv.

Photo courtesy of Vlad P.

Members of the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX) outside the United States Embassy in Kyiv.

Though attempted, the spirit of the Ukrainian people remains unbroken. Millions of citizens in Ukraine were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighboring and allied countries. Despite this, Ukrainian pride remains strong and is exemplified by everyone who is fighting for their country. 

Included in the group of people affected by this war are many students of different ages at various places in their educational journeys.

Vladyslav P., or Vlad, is a 17-year-old foreign exchange student from a small village in the middle of Ukraine. Currently, he is a junior at Wake Forest High School, but back home in Ukraine, he is a senior. 

“When going on exchange, you’re expecting this year to be the best year of your life,” Vlad said. “The war has significantly impacted my exchange year in the meaning of my feelings about my home, family and friends. It’s always hard to hear the latest news and the anxieties of my family.”

Tensions run high for many individuals during such an uneasy time. Wakefield High School senior, Alyna Sigel, has family in Kyiv, Ukraine, and has begun to see how these growing anxieties have affected those in America.

“It makes me worried about a lot of my family,” Sigel said. “My grandfather lives with us and he Skypes my family who lives in Ukraine every day. I can tell that he’s worried and it’s taking a toll on him.”

Vlad is having a challenging time being so far away from home during these events. However, this proved to be a blessing on the day that the Kyiv invasion started.

“That day I used my advantage of having a seven-hour time difference with Ukraine to warn my family about the attacks,” Vlad said. “When the bomb shellings started everyone in Ukraine was sleeping as it was only 5 AM, but in the United States it was 10 PM, so being shocked, I phoned my brother who lives in Kyiv and he managed to get out of the city before the situation got worse.

For the people who are most affected by the war, the best thing to do is to reach out for help when needed. A support system, especially when one is far from their family, could have a positive impact on your mental health.

Andrii S. is another 17-year-old foreign exchange student from Ukraine. He’s been away from his home and family since 2021, and he plans on going to Germany after the exchange program ends. Shvets has been receiving support from the people around him in many different ways.

They showed a lot of concern for my country and my family, and I am very grateful for their help at this difficult time.”

— Andrii

“I am thankful to my teachers and friends for the moral support they gave me,” Andrii said. “They showed a lot of concern for my country and my family, and I am very grateful for their help at this difficult time.”

Even with all the support displayed by global media, the full extent of the war on Ukrainians isn’t being told.

“The information that Americans are getting from the news is only a tiny overview of what is actually going on,” Vlad said. “Things that the Russian army does in the currently occupied territories of Ukraine are insane. They burn all the Ukrainian literature, language, and history books, steal thousands of tons of Ukrainian wheat and food (and send it to Russia), kill thousands of people and bury them in the mass graves, change all the Ukrainian signs to Russian, destroy Ukrainian symbols and loot houses.”

American media has also put a heavy emphasis on Putin’s hatred and anger towards Ukraine and how many Russians are seemingly against the war. However, Vlad has a different perspective on this topic.

“What I’m trying to say is that Putin is not the only evil one,” Vlad said. “Indeed, there are people in Russia who don’t support the war, but at the same time, more than 80% of Russians are against Ukraine. There’s a centuries-long story of their hatred of us as a nation.”

The horrors of this war are not lost on most American citizens, yet it is important to recognize those truly affected by this conflict. 

“I want people to acknowledge that, yes it is scary to watch, but there are people that are actually living through this and this is their life now,” Andrii said. 

With nearly 4869.7 miles between Ukraine and America, many Americans feel detached from the issue at hand. This could lead to difficulties in finding ways to show support for Ukrainian citizens, so Vlad offers some suggestions.

“If someone wants to donate money they should visit the website  https://u24.gov.ua. This website was launched by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as the main venue for collecting charitable donations in support of Ukraine,” Vlad said. “Funds will be allocated by assigned ministries to cover the most pressing needs like defense and demining, medical aid and rebuilding Ukraine. If the person wants to stay informed on the war, I would recommend visiting the websites https://ukraine.ua and https://ukrainer.net.”