‘It was very scary, that first hour’: Ukrainian student, professor speak out about war at home
ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Ivan Cosyuk was thousands of miles away from home when he heard what was happening.
“It was very scary, that first hour,” Cosyuk, a graduate student at Cornell University, said. “It was the middle of the night in Ukraine when I heard that Putin went and declared war.”
For Cosyuk, the idea of being so far away from home while a full-scale invasion was happening was terrifying and filled with anxiety.
“I’m very grateful that I am as safe as possible here [in the U.S.],” Cosyuk said. “But on the other hand, deep inside, I have some kind of guilt [where I think] ‘what can I do? How can I help aid my family and friends?’”
It’s a similar situation for Olena Vatamaniuk. She was born in Lviv, a city in Western Ukraine, but has lived in the U.S. since 1997. Vatamaniuk, a professor at Cornell University, told 18 News she has not seen her family in Ukraine for three years, largely because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. That, she said, makes the situation overseas more heartbreaking.
She received word of Russia’s invasion the night of Feb. 23, 2022, when the news broke in America.
“I have goosebumps even thinking and remembering those moments,” Vatamaniuk said. “We didn’t sleep the entire night.”
Now, as Russia enters its fourth week of its invasion, Kosyk and Vatamaniuk are growing more concerned for their loved ones. While they said they know their country is strong, they’re also terrified of what each new day will bring.
“The only thing I’m afraid is that if we do not help fast enough, more innocent people will get hurt,” Kosyk said.
Kosyk and Vatamaniuk, as well as the Ukrainian government, are asking the U.S. for more help — particularly humanitarian aid for a country that has already lost hundreds of civilians to Russia.
It’s horrible. It’s devastating. Our heart and soul is, was Ukraine,” Vatamaniuk said. “We all aim [for] peace. That’s the goal.”