PA students share personal stories concerning Russian-Ukraine war

Delaney Brenner and Emma Halman

The Page has compiled stories from Eastern-European PA students sharing their viewpoint on the current global conflict. This collection will be updated as we receive more stories, with the most recent being published at the top.


Aydan Jacobs

From 2017 to 2020, before I moved here, I lived in Kyiv, Ukraine. My dad is in the military and he got a position in the Naval department of the U.S. embassy there. For the first two years I was there, I went to one of the two main international schools there: Pechersk School International, where I made probably the dearest friends to me right now. For the last year, I transferred to the other international school: Kyiv International School. 

Although I remained very much American, with a close community both in the embassy and other expats/embassy kids at my schools, I found a very deep connection to Kyiv. I studied Russian, as it was the only similar language to Ukrainian that could get me around, and I was so much better off for it. I found that, to a certain extent, I could connect to everyone there. Although my foreignness was made clear at times, the welcoming, compassionate, and sociable people of Kyiv made me genuinely feel like Kyiv could be my home. Of course, it had its problems, but when I think back to it, those faults never come into mind

I find that to this day, I still yearn for Kyiv and Ukraine in their culture, their acceptance, and the tight-knit communities of everyone there. Ukrainians are some of the strongest people I’ve met, facing corruption with revolutions of full force, famines from their occupation in the USSR, and most of all, now.

I’ve seen so many videos of neighbors, my parents’ friends, and my tutors taking weapons and adding to the already incredibly brave resistance of Putin’s forces into Kyiv. From my friends and neighbors who have evacuated, I’ve seen unwavering bravery through online campaigns, link trees, numerous Gofundmes to look after those who were not able to evacuate as smoothly, and really so much more. 

As to how it affects me, there are a few ways. From the beginning of the numerous tragedies that have occurred from the onset of the invasion, I’ve been glued to my phone reading, talking, and calling to ensure safety and just to hear the voices of friends, discussing how Ukraine could end up, all the while looking for any kind of comfort. With every update, I have no idea what to think or what to expect, leaving me on edge all the time. The Ukrainian army has been met with incredibly successful points, but city centers have been invaded, hospitals shelled, while the number of Russian-occupied cities stays stacking up. It’s like an impending sense of doom that updates don’t seem to help. It is such a horrible thing to think about, but I’m sure it couldn’t compare to the experiences of any Ukrainian today. 

With the invasion on my mind all the time, some things are really difficult to think about. Many of the areas of Kyiv were places where my most cherished memories were made. Walking down Khreshchatyk at unsafe hours, taking metros to and fro, staying around Podil are all just some memories that, as of now, I can’t go back to, but even worse, no one I know can go back to anytime soon. That is probably the most difficult thing I’ve had to think about in a long time.

What makes it better, like I said before, is seeing the incredible bravery and effort to resist. It gives me such a sense of pride and hope to know my friends, and even our school, are doing the best in their abilities to combat the acceptance of the Russian invasion. 

For all of this, I’m all the more compelled to take on internet activism as well as Princess Anne’s effort to aid Ukrainian refugees, those remaining, and those who continuously are on the receiving end of Russian atrocities. The first line of their national anthem is “The freedom and glory of Ukraine has not perished yet”, and tying back to the numerous historical precedents where this was the case, this will always be true for Ukraine. 


Maja Bugaryn

I’m a senior and I’m from Poland but I have lived here for three years because of NATO. I will be moving back this summer.

Over a million Ukrainian people have escaped since last week, and over 600,000 of them came to Poland (current numbers, the numbers change very fast). It is hard to look at what is happening in Europe and in my home country right now and not be able to help. Donation centers in Poland keep opening, one next to another. I’ve never seen my country so united and set on one goal. Polish people are doing whatever they can to help Ukraine. Besides the item donations, blood banks are working overtime because so many people want to donate blood for Ukrainians who are fighting. I know many people who took Ukrainian families into their homes to provide a roof over their heads. There are hotlines for Ukrainian people if they need to talk to a psychologist, and schools are preparing programs to help kids assimilate. It seems like a lot, but there are still so many families who need help. I once heard in an interview something that stuck with me: Why does Poland do so much to help? The person answered with: “We are doing what we wanted someone to do for us during the Second World War.” It hurts me to hear people making jokes about this situation, especially when there are people losing their homes, fleeing the country, getting separated from their families, or dying. I cannot imagine what these people are going through and I cannot imagine how someone can joke about it.

 A group of PA students is organizing a donation drive for people affected by this tragedy. We want to reach as many people who need help as possible. We are planning to involve SCAs from other Virginia Beach schools. There will be lists of needed items posted around the school. More information about this will be sent out soon.

If you have any questions I’ll be glad to answer them.


Amelia Postek

I am a sophomore at PA and I am from Poland. I came to the United States in the summer of 2021, and I am staying here until I graduate.

On Feb. 24, Russia attacked Ukraine. I woke up and checked my phone. It was all over social media. I thought that it would end shortly, Russia would back up and there would be small damages. As we can see now, I was wrong. I went to the school on Thursday, Feb. 24. My first class was journalism so, of course, we discussed this horror that’s happening. I was relieved that students were aware of this situation, and every person in class who decided to speak up was really careful with choosing the words. The same day in my history class I found out that not all PA students are taking the Russian-Ukrainian war seriously. Some of the students started complaining. They said that they don’t want to go to war and other stuff like that. I thought,  wait a minute, this war isn’t about them—the United States is not in a war right now. Innocent men, women, and children are dying, and all you could think of is making this about yourself? Other students started making plans to attack Russia. One of them said, “We should attack Russia at night.” Everyone started laughing and there was me with shock on my face, sitting and trying not to explode. Some of them just didn’t care and didn’t see how this war would affect the whole world. You don’t have to be well educated to realize that the world’s economy will be crying, prices will go up, and some companies will even go bankrupt.

Luckily, no one on Friday tried to talk about this. I was tired and overthinking every one of Putin’s steps. The weekend came, war was not over, and all these awful videos were frightening. I couldn’t believe that. I saw my friends from Poland and from the United States posting Instagram stories with words of support to Ukraine. And then I saw that one girl from PA reposted the headline: “Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a military operation in Ukraine/Vladimir Putin said Russia doesn’t intend to “demilitarize” it.” You might think that she was just giving information, but unfortunately, she added a caption: “World War 3 started on my birthday?? (three emojis of biceps)” I was pissed, but I ignored that, what could I do? The ironic thing was that later she posted footage from the war and she wasn’t joking about that. Bipolar? I guess. Another disrespectful behavior of a PA student was posting fake information: “Vladimir Putin is set to drop a 50-ton nuclear bomb in the United States.” That was too much. I am worried about changes that will come in Poland. I mean over 672,500 people escaped from Ukraine to Poland. I am worried about people in Ukraine that are either fighting for their country or fighting for their lives, and NOW YOU MAKE ME FEEL UNSAFE EVEN WHEN I AM SO FAR FROM THE WAR? That was enough. I knew it was fake, but other people could believe in it. I confronted him and he deleted that. He apologized and said he was sorry and he just wanted to see the reaction of his friends.

After a weekend full of new information, Putin is still invading Ukraine. On Monday morning, February 28, my mom sent me photos of my old stuff, asking if she can give it to a Ukrainian girl who her friend is taking care of. I was like, “Mom, are you kidding me?” I’ve got everything I want here and I’m sure I’m going to survive without the clothes I don’t use anymore. I am very proud of my mom. Whenever she can she’s buying food or other stuff to help people in need. The company she’s working in is giving away brand new toys for Ukrainian children. One of her friends is even changing her whole house into a shelter for Ukrainian children that have no place to go. I am very proud of my country too; hotels and schools are opening for people that need to stay somewhere. People are protesting, cooking food, taking Ukrainian families to their own houses, and basically giving as much help as they can. I feel like Polish people are doing what no one did for them during Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia’s invasion in 1939.

Later the same day, my Journalism teacher asked me how I felt, and if my family and friends are okay. I literally started crying and told him about these Instagram posts. I don’t know why people can not understand the seriousness of the situation. Is it this hard to see just a human being in another person? In my next block, my German teacher asked how I feel and if I need any help. I knew that she was just polite, but I decided to take my shot. I told her about my idea with a fundraiser for the Ukrainian people. She was very excited to help me organize it. I met with her and other people that were interested in helping on Wednesday, March 2 after school. I made a list of things that people need right now, and I planned the script for our video announcement. Teachers, students, and staff will have the opportunity to leave clothes, food, hygienic items, and other items in the school foyer so we can send them to Poland to be given to Ukrainian people that need help. I was happy that overall, students saw how important this is. And I was more than happy when I found out that two Ukrainian students, including one who lived there for a long time, wanted to help with this idea. Soon we will put a video announcement on how you can help Ukraine. I think our idea will have a huge impact on the school community because not everyone realizes how bad the situation is.