Ukranian UofSC student shares her family’s story of strength & resolve amid war with Russia
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With Western intelligence officials expecting that Russia could increase the pace and strength of strikes on key population centers in Ukraine, the war is emotionally exhausting for families with loved ones stuck in Kyiv and the surrounding cities.
That is true for Angela Kolinko, a University of South Carolina PhD student from Kyiv.
For her, war was an unthinkable possibility.
“No one ever thought it could be,” Kolinko said. “The probability of it would be like the probability of flying elephants.”
Kolinko says her family is safe, and she contacts them often, either by text or Skype. But with no relatives in the nearby countries, she wishes there was a quicker way to get her loved ones to a more secure location.
Her parents and grandparents are sheltering in Kyiv and the surrounding towns.
But over the phone, Kolinko gets a staggering glimpse at the realities of war.
“The first reaction was shock,” she said. “When my mom sent me a message on Viper telling me Kyiv is bombarded and that she loves me, of course the first thing I did, I called her back. And I heard like bombs falling.”
When strikes occur, Kolinko’s mother rushes to the basement of her building. She calls her mother several times a day.
“At the beginning she just texted me whenever they have that air alert to just let me know that she’s alive, that she’s well relatively safe, how safe can you be in a city which is bombarded?” she said. “But then, it seems like she even doesn’t want to distract me from classes or so. So she even stopped messaging me when they have air alerts.”
Her grandfather shared a message of strength and resolve with her.
“‘Try not to stress too much,’” Kolinko said. “‘Focus on your classes. We love you and we know that you love us,’ and he’s trying not to panic and not to make me panic.”
Kolinko’s uncle is volunteering to fight in the Ukranian army.
“I doubt he ever in his life hold something heavier than a frying pan,” she said. “But he understands that, well, he’s a man and as a man he kind of has a moral obligation to protect his family, to protect his kids, so he decided to volunteer.”
She said she’s proud of him.
Kolinko wishes that the United States would do more to provide safe haven for people like her mother.
“To apply for refugee, there are several steps and it can take several months to complete those steps,” she said. “So I even cannot take her here. And well, we don’t know. I think my mom is just trying to go to one of the neighboring countries if situation doesn’t change in closest time.”
As far as welcoming refugees, the Biden administration this week offered temporary protected status for Ukranians in the United States by March 1. Kolinko’s mother missed that deadline. For now, it’s a waiting game.
Kolinko thanks everyone for the support she’s received from the community, and is urging Americans not to trust Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“He’s a master of lies,” she said. “And people, even in Russia, believe all those lies because the bigger the lie, the easier to believe it. So don’t listen to Putin. Look what he’s doing. And let’s hope that we will win soon.”
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