Please tell us a bit about you, what is your story?
I was born and raised in Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine. In 2015 I got into Harvard to study. Physics and moved to Stanford to pursue a PhD in the same field.
Tell us about your experience with the war - what happened for you?
Like many Ukrainians, I felt the war first in 2014 with the War in Donbass, which was very close to my hometown. My dad joined Territorial Defense Forces in 2015 and has been participating in military training since, later training other volunteers. Before I left Ukraine, I asked him to take me to the shooting range with him, where I shot several rifles, a rocket launcher and threw a couple of grenades. Never in my life did I think that teenagers my age would ever need that knowledge in Ukraine, but on February 24th, 2022 the unthinkable did happen. I just finished a presentation in my lab and was looking forward to relaxing at home, when my mom, who lived in a village in the north of Kharkiv, video called me. On the screen I saw complete darkness and heard the scariest thing I have ever heard in my life - “We are being shelled. We have no electricity or water. Dad left for the military base and I am hiding in the basement”. I tried my best to comfort her but under the table, my hands were shaking hard.
Eventually my mom managed to leave and reach Germany, just before the area was closed off by Russians, while my dad signed a contract with the army and is now an active duty officer in Donetsk Oblast, at the forefront of warfare. Our house was heavily shelled and looted. Since the first days of the war, I and other Ukrainian students and their allies got together and formed a Ukrainian Student Association at Stanford. We are focused on providing tangible help to Ukraine, fundraising and leading humanitarian missions.
Tell us about the photoshoot - what does it capture for you?
The first month of the war I can describe with one word - surreal. It was surreal to see the world continue to spin, to walk through idyllic Stanford campus and see happy families playing with their children, students leisurely going to classes and sipping coffee, couples enjoying picnics in the sun, while my mom, and thousands like her, was sitting in the basement with no water and light, trying to ignore the sounds of missiles hitting other houses nearby. None of it felt real - I
was feeling like a prop in a movie, detached from reality, not fitting into the perfect scenery of Stanford. The photoshoot captured that feeling for me - the surreal juxtaposition of my peaceful life with the reality that my nation is at war.
If people want to help Ukraine, what would be the most effective way now in your
Donating money to Ukraine, especially if one’s company matches donations, is a great way to help right now. Some organizations that I personally donated to in the past are Nova Ukraine, Razom for Ukraine, Come Back Alive, Revived Soldiers Ukraine and the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
Calling your government representatives and demanding more support for Ukraine is also a great way to push officials to continue supporting Ukraine.
One other way to support Ukrainians is to help them through the United for Ukraine (U4U) program that provides a pathway for Ukrainian citizens to come and temporarily stay in the USA. Through the program, one can apply to be a sponsor for Ukrainians in need and facilitate their safe stay in the US. Incoming families would appreciate any help - whether it be just paperwork filling for U4U, monetary help, clothing and food donation or offering Ukrainians a place to stay.