Ukrainian exchange student shares story


Vlad Vasylyk is a common substantial college student. He spends his days as a overseas trade pupil at H.H. Dow High Faculty collaborating in academic clubs, producing pals and learning about American lifestyle.   

Immediately after Russian President Vladimir Putin released an attack on his hometown of Kharkiv, Ukraine last month, everything changed for Vasylyk.

Now, the 16 year outdated is sharing his story, and that of his region, with the Midland group with the intention to unfold consciousness and knowledge about what is occurring in Ukraine.

Pursuing a enthusiasm

Vasylyk, 16, came to the U.S. through Foreseeable future Leaders Trade (FLEX), a application by the U.S. Division of Point out. FLEX features scholarships for students from Europe and Eurasia to shell out an academic calendar year in The united states the acceptance amount is 2.3%, which rivals acceptance prices at Ivy League universities.

He started the program in September, initially staying with a family in Bay Metropolis. In December, he transferred to Midland the place he now lives with Kirk and Dawn Bortel. The Bortels have hosted exchange college students in the earlier, but none as young as Vasylyk. The pair obtained to know Vasylyk and his family members in excess of the earlier a few months, exchanging email messages and at some point video phone calls.

A single of Vasylyk’s favorite actions is cooking. He just lately designed borscht for his host household.

“He is just a great young man,” Dawn stated.

In Bay Metropolis, Vasylyk enrolled in a journalism class and produced a sturdy writing design. Inspired by his teacher, he continued to pursue journalism just after he transferred to Dow Large School. Now he is taking into consideration it as a probable vocation path.

“I identified this ability, that I could truly write some thing, and I could make an impression by producing,” Vasylyk mentioned.

Cammie Hall, advisor to the Dow High’s pupil paper, Update, was impressed with the crafting samples Vasylyk confirmed her when he initial arrived to Midland. While he commenced out shadowing senior newspaper staffers, Vasylyk speedily moved up to publish independently as a workers writer.

“He surely had a excellent crafting design and style currently that worked very well,” Corridor said. “He’s extremely great at collaborating in our brainstorming periods undertaking that deep exploration to come across connections to college students. He’s been a big asset.”

Small did Vasylyk know that inside a handful of months at his new university he would have a likelihood to share the story of a lifetime.

Bringing a international problem to the nearby stage

On Feb. 24, Vasylyk gained various messages from his mates and family members. Confused, he texted his more mature brother, who is in Poland, to confirm the situation. It was correct: Russia experienced invaded Ukraine. 

“Since we all had read about all the armed forces buildups, I was not expecting (an invasion), but I knew that it could take place,” Vasylyk explained.

Russian forces experienced amassed together the Ukrainian border since early 2021 by the end of the year, there had been an approximated 150,000 troops, according to the Involved Press. On Feb. 24, Putin declared the commence of a “special armed forces operation” meant to demilitarize Ukraine and uproot alleged “neo-Nazi nationalists.”

Concurrently, Russian military unleashed a sequence of air raids and missile strikes on Ukraine’s military services services and important infrastructure.

Functions escalated and inside of a few days of the invasion, Vasylyk’s hometown was bombed.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-premier town with a inhabitants of 1.4 million, has been frequently shelled by Russian forces. In a March 16 Aljazeera write-up, a regional unexpected emergency services claimed at least 500 individuals have been killed in Kharkiv given that the invasion started. On March 15, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov mentioned that much more than 600 buildings have been ruined.

“It was sort of tricky to see (pics of) the downtown, the sites in which I would go for walks in the summertime,” Vasylyk stated. “Just observing them as if they jumped out of a background guide was really hard. They looked like nothing at all like they were being.”

Vasylyk and the Bortels have stored in common get in touch with with Vasylyk’s loved ones, maintaining tabs on their problem. Vasylyk spelled out that his family remained in Kharkiv briefly, huddling in a shelter for a pair evenings. Later on, they resolved to shift to western Ukraine together with a mass exodus.

“Usually that sort of trip would acquire just one or two times at the most, such as an right away stop,” Vasylyk reported. “It took them 6 days to get there (because of the crowds).” 

One particular of the most complicated facets for Vasylyk is not realizing what the foreseeable future will search like or the place he will go when the exchange plan finishes this summer time. When he will take convenience in figuring out that his relatives is harmless, some of Vasylyk’s mates are remaining in Kharkiv.

“I’m apprehensive about them,” Vasylyk stated.

When brainstorming matters to address for the Update’s March 18 version, Corridor proposed localizing the conflict in Ukraine. Update Editor-in-Chief Katie Hagen, a senior, volunteered to generate the tale. Meanwhile, Vasylyk offered info and interview opportunities with himself and his mothers and fathers.

“We just thought that we had a interesting option there that we did not want to move up, owning (Vlad) in our class,” Hagen stated. “He was generous sufficient to have me job interview him. Obviously, it’s a fairly delicate subject, but it was a actually great expertise.”

The prospect of producing about a global historic occasion was overwhelming, as Hagen was extra used to covering stories about university and neighborhood routines. She delved into the heritage top up to the invasion – like interviewing a single of the school’s background lecturers, Brent Chambers – highlighting the Russian and Ukranian presidents as well as describing how activities are influencing Vasylyk and his loved ones.

Hagen, who has been concerned in journalism class for a few many years – the past two on team – defined that her horizons had been broadened, and her point of view was adjusted by creating the story.

“I’ve never ever composed a story of that magnitude ahead of. I actually went in with no prior expertise,” Hagen reported. “It was a cool option for me to learn about the situation and to be aware.”

Vlad finds his voice

In addition to contributing to Hagen’s short article about Ukraine, Vasylyk has spoken to other courses about latest gatherings and what led up to the invasion. Vasylyk hopes to distribute awareness and comprehension of the predicament by providing first-hand information and facts. He defined that he is pleased to solution concerns, even if persons feel not comfortable asking them.

“It truly switches the way you understand all those factors,” Vasylyk mentioned. “I felt like this could perhaps support the condition, by bodily being existing and spreading awareness.”

Vasylyk has also talked with customers of the Bortels’ church, sharing his perception about the invasion.

“He has been willing to stage out and enable others really discover about what’s likely on in Ukraine,” Dawn explained.

“He’s been very beneficial in the sense of what is going on,” Corridor mentioned.

Vasylyk described that the attack towards Ukraine is not clear-lower, stating that many Russians really don’t approve of Putin’s steps. There are also family members on each sides of the conflict Vasylyk himself is 50 percent-Russian and has relations throughout the border.

“I want folks to recognize the basic idea of us as individuals,” Vasylyk said. “No matter how various we show up to be, we are so, so identical. Regardless of where by we are from, what track record we have, what language which we communicate, individuals are persons.”


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Natasha M. McKnight

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