Economic network

– Ukrainian Maine students network together, fight separation with families

Vlada Trofimchuk has been glued to her phone for a week as her home country is invaded, bombed and bombed.

In class, walking across the Colby College campus in Waterville, or sitting in her dorm, she can’t help but think of her parents in Sumy, Ukraine.

The Colby student can’t help but refresh the news apps on her phone or ignore the constant air raid alerts she’s set up on her phone to keep track of what’s going on where her family is .

Vlada Trofimchuk is a third-year student at Colby College. She is from Sumy, Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Vlada Trofimchuk

Constantly checking on his family as they take refuge in a bunker and the magnitude of the situation has become his daily reality, as the world around him on campus continues.

“I have to remember that people don’t do anything wrong – they live their lives,” she said of her fellow students. “I get it, their world isn’t falling apart. They’re going to be happy, they’re going to go out, drink… I have to remember that if they’re talking about going skiing next week, it’s not because they don’t care, they grew up here.

Trofimchuk, 22, is among the few Ukrainian students in Maine facing an escalating invasion of their homeland that has mobilized Western nations to impose crippling economic sanctions on Russia and raised fears of a spreading war. in greater Europe.

Danylo Shuvalov, 23, another student from Ukraine, is a Bar Harbor fourth-year student at College of the Atlantic. He studied for a year in Italy before coming to Maine. Trofimchuk and Shuvalov came here through the Davis United World College Scholars program and, although they don’t know each other personally, they connected online with the small network of Ukrainian students elsewhere in England.

“It’s strange to be here right now because it’s a bit difficult to reconcile two completely different worlds,” Shuvalov said. “One that I see, and one that I not only see, but also live on my screen, on my phone. I’m so on my phone right now.

Trofimchuk’s hometown of Sumy is located in the northeastern region of Ukraine, about 30 miles from the Russian border. Since the start of the invasion, her parents and her 10-year-old brother have moved in with her grandparents in the same neighborhood, but in a different neighborhood to be together, but also because of the proximity of the bomb shelter. bombs in his grandparents’ neighborhood.

They have no plans to leave Ukraine yet, Trofimchuk said.

“The fact that I grew up there…they have jobs; their home is there. They don’t want to leave,” she said. “It’s their house.”

From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., her family has a curfew where they cannot be outside. They are asked to turn off all the lights. Her mother is a hematologist and will always go to work since she is a medical professional, but most other professions and students, like her brother, have to stay home.

Trofimchuk said the only exception to the curfew, besides being a Ukrainian soldier, would be if there was an airstrike, which they are alerted to by sirens or alerts on their phones.

During an hour-long interview last week, Trofimchuk received news on his phone of 15 air raid alerts over Sumy.

“There may be sirens, but you can’t always hear them,” she said. “Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. Some decide to leave, others stay put… sometimes they say it’s the end of the air raid, sometimes they don’t, so it’s up to you when you want to get out.

Food and financial insecurity are starting to be a problem for her family, she said. A neighbor gave them some live chickens that her grandmother was about to eat. Trofimchuk said she was starting to think about the possibility of having to send money to her parents.

She is a third-year student at Colby College studying phycology and German. Before Colby, she spent a year at a university in Germany before obtaining a scholarship to study in the United States.

His housemates are from India and Turkey, and Trofimchuk is just one of two Ukrainian students studying at the Colby – the other is currently abroad in London, but his housemates and another friend, Judy, have been a good support system for her.

“I’m the one who checks the news all the time. I feel guilty if I smile or laugh, and the people in my house, I’m sure they smile and laugh too, but they’re worse off than me,” she said. “It is a work in progress.”

Danylo Shuvalov, a fourth-year student at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor. Shuvalov is from Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Danylo Shuvalov

Shuvalov, the College of the Atlantic student, said his parents lived separately in Kyiv, the capital which suffered heavy missile attacks last week, while his 27-year-old brother lives in Odessa. They are not planning to leave at the moment and are staying put and not going to work, he said. His brother and father did not need to enlist in the army due to the number of volunteers who have already mobilized in the country.

Shuvalov has been glued to his phone and constantly sends updates to his parents when he receives them – sometimes even before they do due to jet lag. When he calls his parents, whether through his phone, Facebook Messenger or other related apps, he can often hear missiles and air raid alarms in the background.

Shuvalov visited his parents in December for two weeks and said even then that he feared an invasion from Russia.

About 250 people gathered in Bar Harbor on Wednesday, showing their support for Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Sofia Dragoti

Shuvalov said it was difficult for him to pay attention to his studies as he watched over his parents’ well-being and kept up to date with the latest news. He encourages people to report propaganda or disinformation when they recognize it, because “disinformation is a matter of life and death, not just information”, for the people of Ukraine.

Shuvalov attended a Ukraine solidarity rally in Bar Harbor this week and encourages others to find one near them if they want to get involved. Other ways to get involved, he said, are to donate to needs-based Ukrainian organizations and compile a list of places to do so.

But right now, he’s trying to face the reality of what’s happening, despite his distance.

“It’s impossible to imagine or feel what it feels like,” he said. “When I put my screen down and not on the phone with my parents, I feel like everything is fine. It’s very hard to imagine, I don’t know if it should be a source of guilt, but something to to acknowledge.


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