Alfred University News

Ukrainian students discuss war, two years after Russian invasion

Several Alfred University students from Ukraine held an open discussion Friday afternoon where they talked about the Russian invasion of their country and the war that has raged there for two years. “Cost of Freedom. Hidden Truth: What the News Do Not Talk About” aimed to educate the campus public about the experiences of the Ukrainian people and how the war has impacted the students from Ukraine attending Alfred University.

“This is a serious topic that involves all of us,” remarked Yuliia Koreiba, a sophomore business analytics major from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. Friday’s event, held a day before the two-year anniversary of the Russian invasion, aimed to refocus on the atrocities of the war, which seems to have drifted from the public’s consciousness.

“People don’t talk about Ukraine anymore. We don’t get any questions,” said Alina Zabihailo, a sophomore business and music major from Kyiv. “It hasn’t gotten any better; it has gotten worse.”

“The war in Ukraine affects us all. It’s important for us to show the truth. Ukrainians pay every day for their freedom, often with their lives,” Yuliia said, as a slide show of photos showing the war’s devastation played on a screen behind her. “We’ve all gone through the horrors of war. Nowadays, the news doesn’t always show the truth of what is going on in Ukraine.”

Yuliia’s cousin, Anna Koreiba, is a first-year marketing major at Alfred University. Unlike Yuliia, Anna didn’t have plans to come to the United States to study. While Yuliia enrolled at Alfred for the 2022-23 academic year, Anna chose to attend a university in Kyiv. “I never wanted to study abroad. I wanted to study at home,” she said.

The continuing conflict in Ukraine changed Anna’s plans. The constant attacks, or sirens warning of potential attacks, made attending classes difficult, with students alternately attending in person or virtually. “We held a lot of classes in shelters, where we studied underground,” Anna said. “It was very hard mentally.”

Anna eventually joined Yuliia at Alfred, enrolling for classes for the fall 2023 semester, and is one of 14 students from Ukraine attending Alfred University.

poster for Ukraine student presentationA question-and-answer session was offered following the presentation Friday. The students were asked if they go home over breaks to see their loved ones.

“This is my second year on campus. I was privileged enough to go home frequently, over holidays,” said Alina, a star on the Saxons’ women’s tennis team. She recalled going home for the winter break from December 2022 to January 2023. “It was very hard. It was very cold, and Russia was trying to cut off our electricity. That was part of their strategy to kill people.”

Anna stayed in Alfred for the recent winter break but hopes to return to Ukraine over the summer. “I will feel nervous going home,” she said.

Yuliia added that home “feels more distant” as time passes, and she says she is grateful for her time in Alfred, away from the conflict. She and Andrii Maltsev, a first-year business analytics major from Nizhyn (a city located about 90 miles northeast of Kyiv), spoke of Russia’s disregard for human life, which has resulted in the loss of countless lives: men, women, and children alike.

Yuliia said the media and the United Nations does not discuss fully the level of the atrocities experienced by the Ukrainian people. She referred to the city of Bucha, located to the west of Kyiv, which early in the war was under Russian occupation for more a month. Ukrainian authorities say Russian forces killed more than 1,400 of the city’s residents, including dozens of children.

“Men and women were tortured and killed, and children forced to watch. People were out walking on the street, looking for food, and the Russians would just shoot them,” Yuliia said. “Thousands of souls have been lost because Russia doesn’t follow the rules of war. They shell critical infrastructure and target places where people live.”

“What (the Russian military) is doing in my region is unimaginable. They kill everyone they see. They don’t care whether it’s a woman or a child. Even animals,” said Andrii.

“There is a lot of emotional damage. All night there are alerts; you can’t sleep. Even when missiles don’t hit the ground near your home, you still suffer. There is no safe place in Ukraine. People will never be the same there.”

The students were asked how long they believe the Ukrainian resistance to Russia will last, and if there will come a point where the country will give up the battle. The questioner pointed specifically to the recent taking of the city of Avdiivka by Russian forces.

Yuliia said Ukraine’s retreat from Avdiivka was done solely to save soldiers’ lives and any notion that the Ukrainian people’s resolve is reflective of Russian propaganda.

“Yes, we need more manpower, but we need more ammunition and weapons. They (Russians) have the advantage of not caring about their soldiers’ lives,” she said. “We will continue fighting for as long as is needed, for as long as we’re alive.”

“If Russia stops fighting, the war ends,” Alina added. “If we stop fighting, Russia occupies our country. We have no choice but to keep fighting.”