Checking in on UNA’s Ukrainian Students

Brooke J. Freundschuh, Managing Editor

Ukraine has been the topic of much discussion and news attention since it was invaded by Russia. Although effects of the waging war overseas have been reflected in the United States through gas prices amongst other things, some Americans find it difficult to relate to those who are forced to flee their homes.

For the two Ukrainian students currently attending UNA, the conflict is a reality that affects them daily while they are here studying. 

Nazar Fedoryshyn is a member of UNA’s tennis team who arrived in Florence to begin his UNA experience at the beginning of the semester in January. Fedoryshyn, who is known as “Payton” to his new American friends, is majoring in Business Management with a minor in Sports Management. He turned 18 only a few weeks ago. He was 17 when he first arrived at UNA. 

Fedoryshyn eagerly moved to the United States without knowing that on the cusp of his eighteenth birthday, all men ages 18-60 would be blocked from leaving the country to fight against Russia.

“I feel lucky,” Fedoryshyn said. “I’m happy that I’m here and can enjoy life, play tennis, have fun with friends. But I have every day conversations with my mom and some of my close friends.”

His hometown is Lviv, Ukraine. The area around where he is from was just invaded two days prior to this interview being given. 

While facing many cultural differences living in the United States, he describes Florence as a small version of his hometown and finds comfort here during these times. 

“I cannot imagine what’s happening now in Ukraine, because I’m so far from [it] now,” Fedoryshyn said. 

He states that his family is deeply affected by the invasion. His sister and her husband had to move from Kiev back to Lviv, which is nearly 350 miles away. While his father travels around Europe for work and is safe in Poland, his mother is at home, doing the best she can to help her friends and those around her. According to Fedoryshyn, she makes blankets and first aid kits for soldiers.

Fedoryshyn plans to complete his undergraduate degree in the United States and is considering applying for a masters after that. He wants to stay here as long as he has the opportunity to do so. As of now, he knows he cannot return home without being forced to stay and fight. 

Daria Starovoitova is a 22 year-old student from Odessa, Ukraine. She goes by the nickname “Dasha.” She has been in America for the last four years. She began studying abroad in 2018 at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and transferred to UNA in the fall 2021 semester. She is majoring in psychology with a minor in criminal justice. She hopes to work in forensic science.

Like Fedoryshyn, she states that living in the United States is very different from Ukraine. 

Starovoitova was raised by her grandparents. She states that they refuse to leave their home amidst this invasion, but even if they decided to, it would be hard to do at this point, because no one is aware of what location will be bombed next. 

“I’m impacted very deeply,” Starovoitova said. “It’s definitely really hard just to go day to day. I get updates on my phone of news every few minutes.”

Starovoitova has one more semester after this one, and will graduate in December. She says she hopes to be able to return to Ukraine, but is unsure at this time.  

“I think Ukraine as it is right now gets a lot of media coverage, so I’m really proud of that,” Starovoirova said. “I think other countries weren’t given that opportunity to get media coverage like that. I’m glad for all the support. It’s very nice to see people support Ukraine.” She feels that there are a lot of resources on campus to help her during this time. She was personally reached out to and offered counseling services and other help from the university. She encourages anyone who wants to support Ukraine to consider donating money or other resources to one of the many organizations set up to help as well as look into ways to help refugees coming from Ukraine. 

Starovoitova shares that she finds community with Fedoryshyn during this time, being that they are the only two current UNA students studying on campus. 

“I was really happy to find another Ukrainian person here, because I haven’t seen anyone in four years that I’ve been in the United States,”Starovoitova said.

She also states that she feels a close connection to the Russian students of UNA, and that they have come together to support one another during this difficult time for both nations.

Both Fedoryshyn and Starovoitova remain positive that this conflict will enlighten the world about the good in their country as well as the turmoil. 

“I meet a lot of Americans and they don’t know where is Ukraine,” Fedoryshyn said. “We have really great history. I hope that this invasion can impact people from around the world to learn Ukrainian history and know a little bit more than the name of the country.”