Ukrainian students struggle with school during time of war

Academics fall by the wayside in the face of turmoil

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By Jordan Copp

Ukrainian students in Vancouver are finding it difficult to focus on the end of the semester while the war in their home country rages on for the seventh straight week.

“I’ve been crying for 24 hours all day long, and I had assignment yesterday,” said Daryna Kulyk, a Ukrainian student studying psychology at Langara College. “So, I was just, you know, writing and crying.”

Keeping in touch with family is the priority

The end of the semester can be a stressful time, however students from Ukraine are facing challenges most people can not imagine. Many have family living in Ukraine, and for most, trying to keep in touch with loved ones takes priority over their academics.

“It was very hard for me to concentrate on my exams because I was always thinking about my family and friends, if they are safe. I called them every day to check where they are, and how they are doing,” said Sasha Zhytchenko, a Langara student.

The recent massacre of Ukrainian citizens in the city of Bucha has sparked international outrage and has put further stress on Ukrainian students.

Kulyk says the recent attack has made it increasingly difficult to focus.

“While the end of the semester is super hard for me, and for all Ukrainian students, especially since April 3.” Kulyk said. “It is just the day that changed everything for many of us.”

Reports of atrocities difficult to process

Reading accounts of the civilians allegedly executed has been excruciating.

Kulyk says her classmates and instructors have been supportive during these unprecedented times.

“I asked for extension [on] maybe one or two assignments and profs are understanding and helped,” she said. “My classmates, they’re very understanding, like, I had several group projects and they all back me up and helped in any way possible. I’m really grateful for this support.”

Some Ukrainian students have found it impossible to complete their academics because of the war.

Liliya Syvytska, a fourth-year UBC film production student originally from Kyiv, said she cannot finish her semester because she doesn’t have the time.

“This war affected me in every single step of my life, emotionally and physically,” Syvytska said. “Since the day of the war, I didn’t go to any classes. I didn’t study at all, even though before I was like, full-on working, preparing my own thesis films.”

Langara’s response

According to the college’s website, there are currently 12 international students from Ukraine studying at Langara.

Gregory Pokorny, the manager of international marketing and recruitment at Langara’s international student office, said that at the beginning of the invasion, Langara sent out a newsletter to Ukrainian students offering support.

“I’ve been getting more and more inquiries from Ukrainian students that are displaced, or even still in Ukraine,” Pokorny said. “We’ve set up this kind of, you know, all the information for student to access. There’s a lot of links to different sites about applying for their visas and work permits and so on.”

Pokorny said although nothing has been implemented yet, Langara is exploring options to provide financial aid to Ukrainian students in need.

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