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Ukrainian student reflects on conflict in home country

Dasha Shyroka is from Poltava, a city in the central region of Ukraine.

Dasha Shyroka
Dasha Shyroka is an exchange student from Ukraine who is currently attending Alexandria Area High School.
Travis Gulbrandson / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA — The Russian attack on Ukraine has thrown into question the return home of one exchange student at Alexandria Area High School.

Dasha Shyroka is from Poltava, a city in the central region of Ukraine.

"I should have two months left, but now I have no idea when I'll go home," she said.

Since the conflict began, Shyroka has been in contact with her parents multiple times each day to make sure they are all right.

"I'm really worried about them because I have no idea what's going on," she said. "I know what's going on, but I have no idea what's exactly going on. Every minute can change something."

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The past few days have been especially difficult because Ukraine is experiencing problems with Internet connectivity.

"It's really hard, because every time they don't answer the phone, it maybe feels like something happened," Shyroka said.

Conditions in her city are really bad right now, Shyroka said, with alarms sounding about every 20 minutes.

"Every time you hear this alarm you need to go in a basement or anywhere to hide," she said. "You can get shot at if you don't do that. It's going on every day."

Shyroka said she had no idea anything like this might happen.

"We're living our best life in Ukraine and everything is going well, but Russian people are going from three or four sides into Ukraine," she said. "They're bombing everything — schools, hospitals, people, kids, everything they can see."

Shyroka said her family are "all really scared. The situation is bad."

However, Shyroka said it isn't quite as bad as in some other Ukrainian cities. For example, Shyroka's best friend, who is also in the exchange program, lost both her home and her school to Russian attacks earlier this week.

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"I don't even know how to support her because I have no idea what to say," Shyroka said. "I don't think anything will make her happy right now."

Shyroka said she herself is doing better than when the Russians first invaded.

"At first I wasn't eating at all," she said. "I wasn't sleeping. I was sleeping one hour, two hours every (night). I was just trying to be strong. I never expected that war could start, especially when I'm on my exchange here and I'm 10,000 kilometers away from my home. So it's really, really hard."

As of now, Shyroka's return to her home country is still up in the air.

"I don't think we'll go (home) at the time we were supposed to go because it's really dangerous right now," she said. "I think that we'll stay longer here. My friend doesn't have a house, so I don't know where she's supposed to go."

One thing that made her feel good were the actions of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who went to the front lines.

"He went to fight, and I'm really thankful to him for that," Shyroka said.

Getting support from other people and countries is beneficial, too, she said.

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"I think we can all support Ukraine," she said. "It's really helpful when you know you're not alone and there are people in other parts of the world that can support us. It's something that makes you feel much better."

Travis Gulbrandson covers several beats, including Osakis School Board and Osakis City Council, along with the Brandon-Evansville School Board. His focus will also be on crime and court news.
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