Ukrainian Student In Lincoln Forced To Watch From Afar As Russia Attacks

March 4, 2022, 4:25 p.m. ·

Yuliia Iziumova stands smiling on Wesleyan's Campus wearing a checkered blazer and white shirt, her hair is in a ponytail
Yuliia Iziumova on the Wesleyan campus in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by William Padmore, Nebraska Public Media News)

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Yuliia Iziumova is a hard worker.

A junior at Wesleyan University in Lincoln, she’s double majoring in Communications and Integrative Data Science and minoring in German. Under normal circumstances her schedule keeps her busy, but since her home country of Ukraine came under attack by Russian forces, finding the energy to keep up has been difficult. Now her days consist of balancing her life in Lincoln with keeping up with the latest news out of her homeland.

“Day and night kind of just blend in (together),” Yuliia said. “We have eight hours difference with Ukraine, so during their day, it's my night...So whenever I hear the news, I try to stay in touch with my family, so my sleeping schedule has been really off.”

It’s starting to get to her. “I simply don’t want to do things,” she said.

Iziumova was born in Chornomorsk a small town of about 60,000 that sits on the Black Sea in southwestern Ukraine. She has also lived in Odessa, another coastal city about an hour away with almost a million people. She considers both her hometowns.

Hometowns now under threat.

“According to some information, there's ships coming from the Crimea area towards Odessa,” Yuliia said, “but so far, thankfully, it has been relatively quiet. People have been preparing. I’ve never seen our people this united.”

Iziumova’s mother, one of the hundreds of thousands of those displaced by the conflict, is safe in neighboring Moldova after waiting 27 to 30 hours to cross the border. It normally takes only three. Her father is still in Odessa. Since Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy imposed martial law in the wake of the invasion, no men 18-60 years old are allowed to leave the country. A grandmother, aunt, uncle and two cousins ages three and twelve are also still in Ukraine.

Iziumova has been balancing worry for her family with her responsibilities here.

“You want them to be safe, but you can't just magically transport them to where they need to be,” Iziumova said. “And so you're trying the best that you can, but then you also have your normal life that you have to continue. There's expectations that you go to work or go to classes, whatever you have.”

Over the past week, she’s been filled with a wide range of emotions; from fear for her family and friends, to anger at the Russian government for starting the war, to pride in her people for putting up stiff resistance. One thing that’s helping her get through? The overwhelming support from the community. “Somebody reached out to me the other day and said, ‘How are you doing? And remember, it's OK, if you're not OK, it's OK, if you're not dealing very well,’” Iziumova said. “It reminded me that there is no expectation to say that I am OK.”

Iziumova hasn’t been able to see her hometown in almost three years. Plans to go back last year fell apart. This summer looked like a good opportunity, but she says that may not be possible either. Now, the plan is to have her mother visit Lincoln to see her graduate in person. Then, they hope to return to Ukraine together.

“I'm still very hopeful that that will be the case.” she said.

Until then, all Iziumova can do is talk to her family, watch news coverage and try and advocate for her people.