Ukrainian students abroad worry about their relatives and the future

A group of teenagers from Eastern Europe made crepes at a Rocky Mountain boarding school to raise money for the millions of Ukrainians whose lives were destroyed by Russia's war against Ukraine.

Ukrainian students abroad worry about their relatives and the future

Students studying on a campus with pine trees in northern New Mexico worry from far away about the relatives they have in war-torn regions.

Masha Novikova is a 19-year old student from central Ukraine. She spent the night calling NGOs to try to get her mother and three younger siblings there.

Novikova stated that she is dealing with many tasks "teenagers don't usually face" as she struggles with the fact that her family might no longer exist.

She said, "It ruins your from the inside."

As part of a global network of schools, students from 95 countries attend the United World College campus. Students from Russia, as well as some students from abroad, were united in horror at the invasion of Ukraine.

A half-dozen students gathered in a dormitory to make blini, Eastern European-style crepes, to sell to their fellow students on a Saturday.

With exams coming up, it's hard to concentrate on school. We are still high school students. We are still trying to live our lives, and we have a lot of high school-level issues, and suddenly, like war intervenes," said Alexandra Maria Gomberg Shkolnikova (18), from Mexico City. Her family is from Russia or Ukraine.

Officials of United World College are looking at options to allow students from Russia or Ukraine to remain on campus or with their alumni families, if they feel unsafe to travel after graduation. Victoria Mora is president of UWC in America.

The school's students are chosen based on their curiosity in global affairs, their desire to share their cultures, and their empathy for others. UWC has 18 schools on four continents. Novikova discovered about the program during a volunteer trip to Irpin, Ukrainewhere her encounter with a student of the United World College of India.

Novikova was tired the morning after her phone call. She walked from the cafeteria building, known as "the castle", to her dorm. This building was once a Gilded Age hotel. One of her closest friends was a Russian student.

The Russian student refused to be interviewed because her country's censorship laws were in place at the start of war.

Novikova said that she has a Russian friend who understands me and how I feel. She also added that war had brought them closer. "Of course there are many conversations that we have these days about politics as well as about the future of both our countries."

They joined other Russian speakers in the female dorm's kitchen, where they ate, cooked, and chatted with each other between checking the news and texting their parents. A few boys from other dorms also arrived, including an Italian and a Spaniard. As the cooking went on, the girls from France and Texas lined up to get snacks.

Late afternoon, many students bought blini with toppings such as jam and chocolate spread. A plastic container of cash totaling more than $300 was collected. This modest contribution to humanitarian aid will be divided between three hospitals in Ukraine including that where Novikova’s father is a surgeon.

Novikova was worried about her family being bombarded or shelled if she stayed in Poland, where her father had been treating soldiers injured on the eastern front. Her mother worried that her family would be shot on the way to Poland.

Novikova's blini session was not a way to escape her constant phone calls. However, she found it more relaxing to be with her friends than being alone in her bedroom for a few hours.

Sophia Pavlenko (a Russian citizen aged 19), said, "What doesn’t kill you makes it stronger." She was leading the blini cooking.

Novikova stated, "What doesn’t kill you makes you trauma."


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