Last updated on July 19, 2023
Editor’s Note: This article is a part of the Holos Project, a four-way partnership (ENGin, The Los Angeles Times Insider, Published Points of View, The Outspoken) established to empower the voices of Ukrainian students across the world through one-on-one journalism mentorship. This article was written by Sofia Stasiuk from Ukraine with the mentorship of Alexis Holos from the United States. “Holos” is the Ukrainian word for “Voice”.
After the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, all areas of life have undergone major changes, including the educational system as well. This is not fiction, but the reality for every Ukrainian. The world needs to know more about the war, but a lot of information is saturated with Russian falsities and propaganda. There is no other way than to continue writing Ukrainian people’s stories to spread the truth.
In this article, three students from different regions of Ukraine share their stories about how their lives and studies have changed after Russia started the war. For many Ukrainian students, studying during the war has assisted students in achieving their true goals. Some study online, others go to university classrooms, and some were even forced to leave Ukraine.
Adelina Petrus, a student at National Pirogov Memorial Medical University, encourages others to study offline. “It’s very important for doctors to study offline, perhaps not only for doctors,” she says. With the constant support from her teachers, it truly makes a difference. “I am happy to have their support, and also to have the great opportunity to receive a quality education despite the war in Ukraine.”
Similarly, Mykhailo Kukharsky, a student at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, has to stay home in the conditions of the war. Mykhailo specializes in electrotechnics, so he needs constant access to power. “It would be difficult to study offline because of frequent blackouts, and also it may be dangerous because of constant air raids,” he says.
On December 31, 2022, New Year’s Eve, the buildings of the Exhibition Campus of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv were damaged by a missile attack. The Faculty of Radiophysics, Electronics, and Computer Systems, where Kukharsky studies, was damaged as well. “Studying online during the war can save your life. Russia is doing acts of terrorism and we need to stop it,” says Kukharsky.
When Russia’s terrorism worsened, Kukharsky’s University stepped in with a statement via Facebook. The caption says: “Russia’s terrorist country keeps launching massive bombing attacks at civil, infrastructural and cultural objects falsely claiming them to be the military ones. These attacks aim to sow fear, destruct our nation’s cultural and genetic connections and derail the development of education and culture” (Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv). Kukharsky’s University is a place to learn and shouldn’t be a place of fear. It’s unfair that students have to witness such horrid events in a learning environment.
Life Would Never Be The Same as It Had Been
Not only is Russia destroying critical infrastructure, but it’s destroying civilian buildings too. Victoria Beloivanenko is from Rubizhne; a town located in the Luhansk region, which directly borders Russia. Since the beginning of the war in 2014, it’s been bombed. “Life would never be the same as it had been. My hometown has been completely destroyed by Russians,” she says.
Initially Beloivanenko did not want to travel abroad, but she had to leave Ukraine for Estonia. As she continued studying remotely, it became harder for her to keep studying, so she quit. “I was trying to get used to the new conditions of my life. My teachers understood the difficult situation caused by the war, so they just supported me.”
Beloivanenko wants to visit her hometown. She wants to witness what’s happened since she’s left and get an apartment where she lived with her family. “I wish I could pick up my possessions which haven’t been broken, especially photo albums. They are really important to me…they are my memories of Ukraine, which Russia wants to take away from me.”
For a year, every Ukrainian has been waiting for the end of the war. Despite the war’s longevity, Ukrainians have maintained hope in their brave hearts. Their hope enables them to continue dreaming about what life can look like after peace has come, Ukraine’s victory. While youth is supposed to be a time filled with fun, bright events, it flies by very quickly. Beloivanenko is an example of youth’s preciousness, and why it’s crucial to make and keep memories of it.
Adelina Petrus Mykhailo Kukharsky Victoria Beloivanenko
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine deprived young people of a lot of opportunities: traveling, meeting with people, and just discovering the world. Intercultural exchange can better an outsider’s perspective of what Ukrainians are facing and help attain international recognition in a globalized world. Petrus reckons it would be lovely to show Ukraine from different points of view, rather than as a country somewhere near Russia. She says, “I dream that people from different parts of the world would come to Ukraine and see with their own eyes how beautiful our nature and people are.”