Ukrainian exchange student worries what will be left of her home

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Like most of her classmates at Northview High School, Tetiana Trach is spending time this spring touring colleges and trying to decide about her future. Her favorite at this point is Aquinas College, but she’s not sure how she’ll be able to make it work.

Trach is a foreign exchange student and typically would have to return to her home country to apply for a student visa. She is Ukrainian, and her family has fled to Germany while Russia continues its invasion.

“They decided it’s not safe to be there, so they should go,” Trach explained.

Her family is from western Ukraine, but the attacks are now happening all over the country — not just in the east, as has been the case in past years.

When Trach first spoke to News 8, it was two days before the war began.

“I’m definitely more concerned right now… People are dying from dehydration. They don’t have food, and they don’t have water because when volunteers want to give them supplies and provide them with supplies, Russian soldiers just shoot and bomb,” she said.

Trach said she was shocked by what was happening.

“What I thought, and I think the whole world thought, if anything happened, it would be just military bases and army against army. But what we have now is an army against people, and that’s crazy,” she said.

Trach follows Ukrainian and American news channels and keeps up with her friends who have remained in Ukraine. Those friends are getting ready to take their exams and graduate from high school while hearing sirens alerting them to go to their bomb shelters.

Trach is uncertain of what her future will look like in terms of returning home because of how things have escalated.

“I think anything can happen now. But also, I’m very proud of (the) Ukrainian army and Ukrainian soldiers. I think the whole world didn’t expect us to confront the Russian army as we’re doing right now. My fear is that this is going to be not for one more month. That is going to be a long war,” she said.

Trach’s family members are now refugees in Germany, including her 10-year-old brother. She said he doesn’t fully understand why they had to leave and wants to return home. She talks with her family every week and said she feels somewhat left out being so far away.

“I don’t want to regret anything to regret doing anything in my life. I’m really grateful to have had this experience, but when all your friends are there, and the Ukrainian community is very united right now, I would like to be there. I also understand I can’t really help a lot there,” she said.

The world has watched as Ukrainian citizens fight for their country and independence. Trach said that strength comes from Russian repression.

“I think we just want to be truly independent. We just want to have our own nation, our own language and we don’t want other countries to intervene. I think we’re just like angry because we want to be who we want to be, and our rights and lives are taken away… We just have this idea of Ukrainian freedom… and we don’t want to be a part of Russia,” she said.

As far as this has all had on her mental health, Trach explained, “I’m doing as good as I can. I have a war in my home country, so I can’t say that I’m doing wonderful, but I’m doing OK.”

Her host family has set up a GoFundMe page to help her raise money for college.



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Natasha M. McKnight

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