On February 24th of this year, Russia invaded Ukraine, escalating the Russo-Ukrainian war that began when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine in 2014. Russia’s invasion and the warfare that has followed have turned millions of Ukrainians into refugees. One new student at Hamden Hall, Taya Fedorenko, is staying in the U.S. because of the war. She first came to Connecticut in early February to visit her boyfriend, Clayton Johnson. While the trip was originally supposed to last for only three weeks, Taya and her family decided it would be best for her to stay in the U.S. until the war ended. However, Taya noted that “a lot of people think the war will continue until the new year, and others think we’ll have the same situation as some other countries, where we aren’t in a state of war but we’re still getting bombed.” These circumstances make prospects very uncertain for Taya and other Ukrainian refugees.
Taya said that before she left Ukraine, “It was intense,” underscoring that “everybody was really stressed because Russian troops were gathering around Ukraine.” In fact, Russia surrounded Ukraine’s border with more than 130,000 troops before invading. Taya’s parents are still in Ukraine, and her father joined the army in February of this year after completing preparatory training. “He just works in a firm, so he’s just a basic guy, and then he volunteered,” Taya told me. According to Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, over 20,000 volunteers from all across the globe have volunteered to help fight for Ukraine.
So, how can we help Ukrainian people? I asked Taya, who paused for a moment before responding, “Well, a lot of countries right now, it’s not that they are refusing to help, but they’re scared. It’s understandable. What I would ask is for everyone to keep their attention on Ukraine because it’s been two months and while it’s a topic that everyone knows, it's [protests and other forms of advocacy for Ukraine] not as active as it used to be.” She emphasized that it’s crucial to keep the war in the limelight to prevent complacency. While it might seem like we can’t do anything to directly aid the people of Ukraine, Taya highlighted that “any help can make a huge difference.” For example, we can donate to organizations like CARE, which are working to provide humanitarian relief like food, medical care, and psychological support for Ukrainians.
When asked what she would like to say to Hamden Hall’s student body, Taya said, “I guess you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow and how it will affect you and your life and your family. I haven’t seen my family for over two months now, so it’s really important to appreciate what you have.” Since February, over one million children have fled Ukraine. Like Taya, many others have been sent to seek refuge by parents who are unable to leave the country but want to ensure their children stay safe. The UN Refugee Agency, which accepts donations through its website, has focused much of its recent effort on assisting Ukrainian families both fiscally and through resettlement opportunities.
I asked Taya if she had anything else to add, to which she responded with a laugh before concluding definitively, “F–ck Putin.”