Ukrainian students taking classes through DePaul shed light on life during Russian invasion – Chicago Tribune

After the Russian attack disrupted the daily lives of millions of Ukrainians, including students, DePaul University partnered with Ukrainian Catholic University and other higher education institutions in the region to enroll more than 100 Ukrainian students in online courses at the University of Chicago this spring.

Here they share what life is like continuing their studies in the midst of conflict.

May 6: When Russian missiles hit several power stations in Lviv, Ukraine, earlier this week, student Marta Haiduchok pointed her mobile phone camera through the window of her family’s apartment as the evening sky was enveloped in smoke.

“There were a lot of explosions, and some were not far from my house, so we heard them clearly and saw fires,” said Haiduchok, 20, a student at Ukraine’s Catholic University in Lviv. and one of more than 100 Ukrainian colleges. students zooming in on online classes at DePaul this month.

“My mom and sister were outside, so they saw rockets in the sky and immediately ran to the basement,” Haiduchok said.

“I was in my DePaul class…as soon as I heard the explosions outside, I left the Zoom meeting and went to the basement as well,” Haiduchok said.

As missile strikes in Lviv knocked out power in some areas on Wednesday night, Haiduchok said power had largely been restored.

“We’re all fine, just shocked and scared,” Haiduchok said. “My sister felt terrible, she’s only 12, so she cried a lot in the basement, but everything seems to be calmer,” she said.

Student Sofiia Kekukh, 18, a National Academy student at Kyiv-Mohyla University, who is also enrolled in online classes at DePaul, recently completed a video project that captures a slice of life in time of war in this hauntingly beautiful city in western Ukraine, about 30 miles from Poland.

The video opens with Kekukh standing in one of the city’s historic squares, smiling behind oversized sunglasses and proclaiming, “Hey everyone! Today I will show you Lviv, and you can hear all the sounds of this wonderful city, so let’s enjoy it together.

The video fades to the sound of overhead sirens.

kcullotta@chicagotribune.com

April 29: Student Marta Haiduchok was grateful for the silence as she left her apartment in Lviv, Ukraine, to reunite with classmates at the Ukrainian Catholic University library.

“It gave me so much joy. … I was very scared to go there, because I was anxious that the aerial siren would catch me while I was on my way,” said Haiduchok, one of 100 Ukrainian students enrolled in virtual classrooms at DePaul University.

“But the university has shelters so everything was fine and I got home before the siren,” Haiduchok told the Chicago Tribune via text message.

But Haiduchok’s reprieve from the Russian invasion and devastating war was fleeting, and at 8 p.m. last Thursday Ukrainian time, air raid sirens in Lviv were blaring and Haiduchok was behind a laptop in a hallway of the family’s apartment in western Ukraine, about 40 miles from Poland.

“It’s safer behind two walls,” Haiduchok said, adding, “I’m in the class right now and I don’t want to miss it.”

Sofia Kekukh, 18, a student at Kyiv National University-Mohyla Academy who is also enrolled in online classes at DePaul, said via text message with the Tribune that last weekend was her “first Easter without my parents”.

“I strongly believe in my nation, in our people. It brings me hope and a bit of peace,” said Kekukh, who is studying in temporary accommodation in an apartment in Lviv, where she recently arrived after she and her parents abruptly left their home in Kyiv. , the capital of Ukraine, in February. .

“It’s hard to talk about joy right now. My parents, my grandparents, my family, my boyfriend and my friends are alive and safe. This is (what is) most important to me,” Kekukh said. “My apartment is neither damaged nor destroyed. I’m happy. We celebrated Easter a bit. It was dangerous to go by transport to another region because of possible provocations and danger.

Dmytro Sherengovsky, vice-rector for academic affairs and internationalization at the Ukrainian Catholic University, recently said via a FaceTime interview with the Tribune that after nearly two years of teaching online, the winter term at the university started in person, but was disrupted by the Russian invasion. in February.

“We lost about a week, but quickly decided to take a service-learning approach, teaching our students how to do practical things while serving the community,” Sherengovsky said.

“In our case, we asked, ‘what can we do to help?’ So our students do volunteer work, like providing psychological help, housing and helping people with disabilities,” Sherengovsky said, describing some of the hands-on student projects taking place across Lviv.

While the university’s 2,100 students have also been able to continue their programs through online courses at the university, Sherengovsky said service-learning projects are likely to provide students with experiences that will prove more valuable than the traditional lessons learned in the classroom.

And then, suddenly, the FaceTime conversation with Sherengovsky was interrupted by a high-pitched sound coming from his smartphone.

“The alarms are going off, I have to go to cover,” Sherengovsky said, before adding, “That means they saw missiles, but I can probably still talk for another eight minutes.”

“I’m not scared, but I was scared the first few days,” Sherengovsky said. “Then your psychology adjusts a bit, and while it’s certainly not typical, after a number of them it’s routine.”

April 14: When the air raid sirens began blaring at 4 a.m. in Lviv, Ukraine, student Marta Haiduchok began her day by seeking refuge in the basement of her building.

More than 12 hours later, Haiduchok, 20, zoomed in on her online classes at DePaul University, where she is one of 100 Ukrainian students learning alongside their American classmates in the university’s virtual classrooms. University of Chicago.

“When the war started, I was super anxious all the time and had trouble concentrating. But in my case, I put so much money into my education, my studies help me do my best to forget everything that’s going on,” Haiduchok said via a FaceTime interview with the Tribune from his home in Lviv, located in western Ukraine about 40 miles from Poland.

After learning that many Ukrainian students and their families had been displaced from their homes and that universities across the country were operating at reduced capacity, DePaul reached out to professors who were scheduled to teach classes online for the spring term, asking for interested volunteers. to host Ukrainian students. to zoom into their virtual classrooms.

Given the eight hours Time difference with Chicago, Ukrainian students have been urged to enroll in online classes offered early in the day to allow for as much synchronized instruction as possible, Besana said.

“War is no longer an abstract concept for our DePaul students, because now they know classmates like Marta and Sofia, which is really powerful,” Besana said.

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kcullotta@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @kcullotta

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