"Standing Up for Democracy"

One of five Ukrainian students enrolled at the College, Marta Hulievska grew up in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, and traveled to the United States for the first time last fall to begin her freshman year. Now she's navigating her studies while worrying for her family's safety and joining other Ukrainian students to advocate for greater U.S. support of their country. DAM checked in with her on campus in early May.

What is your hometown like? 
It's a city of about 800,000 people in eastern Ukraine. It's near Donetsk and Luhansk, areas that Russia occupied in 2014. My father was a lawyer for the local refugee center, and I volunteered there, and my grandmas were working as doctors for refugees. So we have been in touch with this war stuff since 2014, but I never thought my family would become refugees. Is your family still there? My father had to stay because men are not allowed to relocate. My mom, my grandmother, and my two siblings went to Lviv, in western Ukraine, on March 3. Lviv has admitted a lot of refugees from eastern Ukraine, and we have relatives there, but there are now two families living together in a two-bedroom apartment.

How often do you speak to your family?
I try to speak to them every day. Usually when I call my dad, he's in complete darkness because everyone has to turn off the lights after 4 p.m. If you turn on the lights, the Russian troops might see where the lights are and assume that this is a civilian area and bomb that. My city is not occupied, but the whole region around it, all the small towns and bigger towns, they're all under Russian occupation. We fear that the next step might be escalation of the conflict in my city.

Before the invasion in late February, did your family have a sense that it was coming?
It was pretty surprising. I remember that the news about a possible invasion—from U.S. intelligence saying Russia was gathering troops—started in December. Of course it was getting me nervous, and I was kind of scared to ask my parents about it, but I did. They were saying that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin was not going to invade. I don't know if they actually believed that or they just wanted me to believe that, but this was kind of the consensus among the Ukrainians here at Dartmouth too. No one was expecting it to happen. That was a huge shock.

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