Ukrainian UT student: 'I'm fighting tears'

| Stan Waning

UT students of Ukrainian descent have reacted with shock to the Russian invasion. Today they met in downtown Enschede, looking for support. 'We are a proud and mentally strong people. You don't get us scared easily, but these are very tough times.'

Mykhailo Brytskyi.

Mykhailo Brytskyi (19), a Chemical Science & Engineering student, couldn't believe his eyes when he woke up this morning. He was just recently celebrating the turn of the year in Kiev, and now on the news he saw fighting everywhere in the Ukrainian capital. 'I immediately sought contact with my parents and other family. They all live in Kiev.'

Brytskyi's mother notified him via a message that they are in safety, but the student knows that could change at any moment. 'I am speechless. I've been sitting in the corner of my room for hours with Ukrainian music on, fighting the tears. We are a proud and mentally strong people. Much stronger than the Russians. You don't get us scared easily, but these are very tough times.'

Ukrainian costume

Despite the misery, Brytskyi decided to come to campus, wearing traditional Ukrainian attire and carrying the country's blue-and-yellow flag. 'That flag supports me. I decided never to speak Russian again in my life. I also draw strength from the Ukrainian community here. We all help each other and try to stay in touch with our families. My family has food, money and gas in the car. I haven't spoken to my father yet, but I already know what he is going to say first. That is that despite everything, I have to focus on my studies, even if it's not easy.'

Viktoriia Konashchuk (19), a student of Business Information Technology, also spent the turn of the year still in Kiev. Because she and her parents feared the current reality, they were supposed to meet abroad in the coming days. 'They were going to catch the plane tomorrow, but that's no longer possible,' she recounts crying.

Unbearable fear

Konashchuk was awakened last night by a message from her native country and did not sleep a wink after that. She was already in contact with her family, who are safe, but that does not give her peace of mind. 'My parents live near the military base in Kiev that is now under attack. I have been living on my own for a few years and recently in the Netherlands on my own, but I cannot imagine a life without my parents. The fear of not having contact with them again is unbearable.'

Konashchuk also seeks support within the Ukrainian community. 'The strongest community there is. I am enormously proud of that. We will meet this afternoon in the Enschede city center and try to support each other.'

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