Having friends in a warzone

On Feb. 24, Russia launched a full scale invasion of Ukraine. The war shocked the world by the blatant land grab being initiated by Vladimir Putin and is the worst security crisis in Europe since World War II.

This all may seem far away from us in Vermont, but for former Castleton University exchange student Sophia Shkolyk, it’s all too real. 

Although she has moved to the countryside near Poland, many of her friends remain in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine under attack. 

“A lot of my friends are defending Kyiv right now. They never, never, never in their lives had to carry a gun,” she emailed to her Castleton friends.  “Now they have too.”

Shkolyk was a Ukrainian exchange student to the United States through a program run by the State Department. She was placed into a random placement program where she could be placed anywhere from Ohio to the eastern seaboard. 

As luck would have it, she was placed at Castleton University. Many of us, myself included, got to know her well, giving her tours of Vermont, having awkward cultural exchanges, and getting a different perspective on America. 

It was a great time, but before long Sophia returned to Ukraine – and three months later, war would break out in her country. 

She further describes the unfathomable situation her friends are experiencing in Kyiv. 

“My friends are doing the molotov cocktails against the Russian tanks, so it’s pretty shitty,” she wrote. 

As of the writing of this article on Feb. 26, Russian forces have commenced rocket attacks on Kyiv as the Ukrainian armed forces remain dug in along defensive lines against the foreign invaders. 

Shkolyk has been working on several media projects conveying her and her fellow countrymen’s sentiments on platforms such as Instagram at frontier.in.ukraine.  

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