Ukrainian Brock student says country united as war unfolds

Nestor Voronych may be 7,000 kilometres away from his family in Ukraine, but he’s with them and all Ukrainians in spirit.

The first-year Brock University Computer Science student moved to Canada in 2019 with his parents and brother in pursuit of better education. But that decision meant leaving behind most of his relatives in Ukraine, including grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.

For two weeks, Voronych has been watching the armed conflict in response to a Russian invasion of his homeland through news reports, social media and texts from friends and family in Ukraine. Initial feelings of shock and anger have turned to melancholy.

“It changes your perspectives on life,” he said of the war. “It rocked my universe. I can’t really take school seriously right now — I just get done with it as fast as I can. It’s definitely influencing my student life.”

What upsets Voronych the most is how many Ukrainian civilians have been injured or have died from Russia’s attacks.

“They’re not doing much damage to our soldiers compared to our civilians,” he said. “Our civilians are more in danger.”

To help with the war effort, Voronych’s friends and family in Ukraine are collecting, packaging and shipping supplies and care packages to areas currently under attack. Voronych’s extended family lives in Lviv, which he said appears to be safe for now.

“I’ve never felt such a connection to my home,” he said. “Every city in my country has incredibly organized itself. I don’t know a single adult in my city who isn’t helping the war effort in some way.”

Here in Canada, Voronych’s immediate family members are each dealing with the situation differently. His parents are already thinking of ways to rebuild once the invasion is over, and his brother has busied himself with schoolwork and physical exercise, sparing little time to think about anything else.

The complex relationship between Ukraine and Russia has been a topic of conversation for years in Voronych’s family. His grandparents lived through tough times in the Soviet Union and regularly shared stories of what their experiences were like.

Voronych was living in Ukraine during the 2014 revolution and remembers the tenacious spirit of its citizens.

“Ukrainians have been fighting for independence from Russia for hundreds of years,” he said. “Our anthem starts with ‘Ukraine has not died yet,’ in other words, we will live on.”

Voronych is proud of the efforts of the Ukrainian army and civilians, who have been taking up arms to combat the invasion. He suggests anyone interested in helping with the effort to make a monetary donation to a reputable organization or to lobby their local politicians for additional action to be taken.

“The country is more united than ever, from east to west,” he said. “There was always something separating people in our country, and if two revolutions didn’t bring us together, this war has definitely solidified us and made us very strong. I hope something good comes out of this, even at the terrible cost.”

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