As the Russia-Ukraine conflict is making headlines worldwide, Ukrainian students and researchers in Groningen struggle to sleep at night, scrolling the newsfeed and trying to keep in touch with their families, not knowing what to do.
‘The past weeks have been really difficult and challenging with a lot of thoughts running through my head’, says Kateryna Frantseva. She’s doing her postdoctoral research in planetary sciences. ‘I’m in contact with my family every hour, but I feel like a big hypocrite sitting here and not really knowing how to help my country.’
PhD student Milosz decided to cancel his trip to Ukraine because of the obligatory military service over there. ‘People are worried about being conscripted in case of war, and I don’t want to be at the front line.’
‘No one is ever ready for war’, says marketing student Anita Gimpelson. She’s currently staying in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv where she grew up, located just thirty kilometres from the Russian border. Like other people around her, she is doing her best to stay calm and focus on practicalities like finding the nearest emergency bunker and having her necessities at hand.
Even though there are guns being sold in shops and people are practising evacuation drills and first aid skills, she says, life goes on as usual. ‘We all are trying to keep calm, but when you’re home and you have all those thoughts running through your mind, it’s really hard to fall asleep.’
It helps her to focus on raising awareness ‘on what’s really happening in Ukraine’ and to raise funds for trusted charities, while she finalises her degree at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. ‘The hardest thing for me is that I feel conflicted leaving my family for my job in the Netherlands. I feel like I want to be with them.’
Hanna Sakhno, an economics PhD student, also feels very connected to her friends in Ukraine. ‘We can relate to each other’s experiences and it has been very helpful to chat.’ Her supervisors have been supportive, adds Sakhno. ‘My productivity dropped last week, but I was assured it’s okay to take some time off or to be less productive.’