Ukrainian war affects UF students

By Andrea Hoffman,

Feb. 24 marked two years since Russian military forces invaded Ukraine beginning a full-scale land, sea and air war. University of Findlay Ukrainian international student Sasha Melynk says it’s more than a memory.

“Because it has been two years now people are starting to forget, but it is still very real. The war is still going on,” Melnyk said. “When I am back home in Ukraine all of the media is talking about the war, but here it is not.”

Although the current focus on the Russian-Ukrainian war situation is majorly focused on the 2022 invasion and military efforts since, the crisis between the two countries dates back to 2014 with Russian president Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea.

The conflict, which originates from political, cultural and historical differences, has come to a pivotal point. Concerns over the current situation were voiced by international leaders and organizations, who called for diplomatic solutions and the defense of human rights. For the Ukrainian people, however, this is a battle for their homes, families and survival of their way of life.

Melynk has experienced this battle first hand. Melynk’s father and grandparents are still living in the country’s capital Kyiv, but her sister and mom were able to flee to Canada for safety.

Melynk is a member of the University’s swimming and diving team. She received a call from her family at her freshman year Conference Championship in early February of 2022 with unexpected news. Melynk’s mother said they were packing up their things just to be prepared because of the concerns heightening around the conflict.

“It definitely messed me up,” Melnyk said. “I don’t remember anything after that from the rest of the meet because I was so worried about my family.”

Since the start of the war in 2022, Melnyk only visits home once a year to protect her safety. Her few trips back to Ukraine have not been to just visit family, but also to have necessary doctor’s appointments where her insurance can help cover expenses.

“When I want to go home, I have to really keep up with the news. You have to see if it’s safe enough — it’s never safe — but safe enough to stay for a little bit,” Melynk said. “It takes a huge plan of planes, trains and cars since no planes are flying directly.”

According to the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council in light of the 2022 attacks, many companies such as Boeing, Pfizer and GE donated money to humanitarian efforts. U.S. schools held fundraisers collecting money and supplies; people proudly flew the Ukrainian flags to show their support. However, as time has gone on the support has died down and media coverage in the U.S. has diminished regarding the attacks that have taken place over the last two years.

Melnyk says although it’s rarely covered in the U.S. media, the Ukrainian people have grown more unified through these trying times and have made community.

“We don’t give up our cities or our language and culture,” Melynk said. “It is not over and I don’t think it will be over for a really long time.”