Russian, Ukrainian students speak out about war

Kasey Thompson, Yearbook Editor in Chief

The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine escalated in recent months when Russia invaded Ukraine. About 31% of the high school’s student body is Ukrainian and about 9% are Russian. These students must continue with their day to day life, while hoping family members are safe living in or near a war zone. Ukrainian junior Violetta Savulyak has seen the immense affects the war has had on her family. 

“My grandpa on my mom’s side lives in Ukraine. We used to Skype [with him], but we lost contact during the war. My mom worries, basically every day, because we don’t know if he’s okay or not. She has been trying to get a hold of him somehow,” Savulyak said. “I’ve lived here my whole life, but all my sisters were born [in Ukraine]. It affects them more because they went to school there. Thankfully, everybody else we know [in Ukraine] moved to America.”

Junior Ilona Dyachenko is also Ukrainian and her family has first hand experience in being drafted to the war.  

“My uncle, grandparents, aunts and some cousins still live in Ukraine. We’re all very worried about it because right now they are taking a bunch of people to war. They wanted to take my uncle, but luckily they didn’t. I’m very grateful because he has three young kids. We have gatherings at church and we pray almost every day for Ukraine,” Dyachenko said. 

Sophomore Daniel Kirilyuk’s family is Russian, but he has extended family in both countries. Due to this, he has experienced both sides of the war. 

“My family that are in Russia are okay because they’re pretty far away from [the fighting]. [However], I have family in Kyiv, Ukraine, so they got stuck because nobody really thought [this war] was really going to happen. Now, all the borders are closed. It’s pretty hard for them because they can hear the shootings. They haven’t been hurt, [and] I think they’re getting a way out, so it’s getting better,” Kirilyuk said. 

Dyachenko is thankful to stay in contact with her grandparents, despite it being scary at times. 

“Lately, we’ve been communicating a lot with my grandma and grandpa in Ukraine. [However], there was one night that they called and [told us that] everything was shaking and they were worried,” Dyachenko said. 

Savulyak feels connected to those a part of her culture, so hearing about the repercussions of the war are hard for her. Her family is working to do everything they can to support those in Ukraine and surrounding countries. 

“For me personally, it’s stressful watching people that are in my culture [dealing with this]. I feel like I am close to them in a weird way, but it’s nice seeing people at school support the country,” Savulyak said. “I actually came home from school and my mom [had] gathered some necessities to ship to people in other parts of Europe.”

For Dyachenko, the war has reminded her to cherish her family members. 

“[The war has] definitely [affected me personally]. It makes you worry for your family and makes you value them way more because you’re scared that something may happen to them,” Dyachenko said. 

The Ukrainian and Russian students at the high school have dealt with the effects of the war both in and out of the classroom. 

“In my government class, we were watching an interview of the Ukrainian President talking about how he’s thankful for the support of America, but [wished for] more. The kid behind me was making rude comments [about it],” Savulyak said. 

Kirilyuk has also received comments from peers due to his background. 

“It’s like a joke, I’m Russian, so people come at me for it. They ask me why I don’t do something about it. It’s not like I can. They usually come at everybody in Russia, when it’s not their fault. If Putin wants to do something, he’s going too,” Kirilyuk said. 

Although tensions between the two countries have been ongoing, Savulyak did not expect the war to continue this long.

“Ukraine and Russia have been at war for a long time, [but] I didn’t think it would ever escalate that fast because they’re kind of [a part] of the same culture. You would never expect somebody to attack their own people,” Savulyak said. “[Something specifically that upset me was when I heard about] a bunch of Russian soldiers going into [a] city [in Ukraine] called Bucha. They commited a lot of war crimes, [including] killing and raping women. When I saw that, I cried. It’s so unreal. I don’t understand how somebody could do that to another person.”

Dyachenko was also shocked that tensions could escalate in the way they did. 

“A couple years ago, I never thought that this war would happen, it was just a shock,” Dyachenko said. 

Despite all the hardship, Savulyak and others have worked to stay close with all those affected to create a supportive environment. 

“I’m friends with Evelyn and Ilona from school, and then I have a lot of other friends that are Ukrainian and Russian that go to other schools. We talk about [the war] a lot. We just say we hope that everything goes well, it’s not a conflict between friends who are Ukrainian and Russian,” Savulyak said. “We just try to support each other and tell each other that we love each other.”