Attack on Ukraine: An Exchange Student’s Point of View

A Ukrainian exchange student, who is staying in the United States for one additional year due to Russia’s invasion on Ukraine, touches on what the attack means for his family, friends and hopes for the future.

Vlad Senenko, a foreign exchange student at Rex Putnam High School from Ukraine.

Vlad Senenko, a foreign exchange student at Rex Putnam High School from Ukraine.

Karma Turner, Senior Reporter

This is an incredibly uncertain time for those who are currently living in Ukraine. We have many first hand accounts coming out daily detailing the horrors of Russia’s invasion of the country. According to statista.com, As of June 1, a total of 4,169 civilian deaths were reported by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The impact of this on the people of Ukraine will linger for much longer than most will know. But it’s something that other countries should never forget about. I had the fortunate chance to speak to Vlad Senenko, a foreign exchange student at Rex Putnam High School that came from Ukraine. With having family and friends still facing the war back at home, Senenko is able to provide a first-hand look into what the experience has been like for Ukrainians.

“My parents live in central Ukraine which is still not affected as much as different regions. So really, it’s a relatively safe place for right now, but nothing is safe in Ukraine.”

At first, Senenko thought it was fake news and that his friends were texting silly jokes in their group chat. When he learned that what they were saying was true, he was filled with disbelief and immediately contacted his family

“I probably woke them up. Because at first, I called them and I said, Is everything fine? I’m hearing that Russia invaded Ukraine. They were just like, ‘no we were just sleeping, we never heard of that’. After I explained everything they were also shocked and paralyzed as well as me. They couldn’t believe it at first. And that’s actually how I felt. The first thing was to check in with my parents. I have friends still in Ukraine, so I checked them.” 

We then shifted the conversation to the experience of people that may not be as lucky as his family. He spoke to me about the countless rapes of young women from russian soldiers, the murders of children and families and the destruction of whole villages. His grief was palluable. 

“Yeah, I’m gonna continue talking about that girl and her friend, one of her best friends. She went to this rural village just to be in a safe place. They thought they wouldn’t come through because they lived in a pretty good strategic town. Right? But her parents were afraid and didn’t want to keep their child in that town. So they left, and she went with the grandparents who lived in the village just a few miles from there. And so what basically happened was Russian soldiers went from the western side of the river to cross there. But they faced an issue. The Ukrainian military blew up the bridge. And so they had to find another way, which unfortunately, was through that village where the girl and her family stayed. They stormed the village and they just started shooting all around and you know, raping women. It seems unrealistic but it’s actually true. It’s like I have personally actually seen that and experienced that. At that particular moment when they came into the village, that girl with her grandparents and her little brother were staying outside because they wanted to catch a connection to call their parents and say they were alright (but they were not). The shooting started. And the bullets were just in front of their faces. They were actually hearing those bullets and they were then trying to run away. That girl actually escaped and she was in this, like, shelter somewhere. But her brother was not so fast and so he was shot. Their grandma tried to jump on him to cover him with her body but it was too late. So he died. He was 14. There are so many stories like that.” 

The impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken the world to its core. Senenko, as an exchange student, is staying in America and is in turn separated from his family. 

“As I said, I went through some stages. The first was shock and just paralyzing. Then, I accepted that. And it wasn’t just hours. It took like days to do that. Because, you know, I was terrible. And after that, I realized that I had to be stable to actually do something. I started posting stuff on social media, which I’m still doing right now. And now I’m doing all this stuff that I mentioned before.” 

Overall, Senenko finds that the good he can do in America outways the good he would be able to do in Ukraine. He wants to use his words and his knowledge of international relations to continue to inform his peers about what is going on in Ukraine. He says he doesn’t want people to forget about this. He believes that history will repeat itself if we don’t learn from it, so he has made it his mission to teach those who will listen and hopefully make a better future for the world.

“Who knows what’s going to happen next? And that is also why I’m going crazy right now. Because we just don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. It’s like everything is in right now, no foggy or cloudy that you can see through. You just have to improvise. You live, just hoping that tomorrow you’re gonna know everything, but it’s not gonna be like that. You just have to figure things out and it’s challenging, but at the same time, that’s how life works.” 

 

Senenko encourages those who are willing to donate to help Ukraine to do so; here are a few different links to choose from: 

https://uahelp.monobank.ua/

https://spendwithukraine.com/

https://novaposhta.ua/humanitarian_post/en/

https://bank.gov.ua/en/news/all/natsionalniy-bank-vidkriv-spetsrahunok-dlya-zboru-koshtiv-na-potrebi-armiyi