When news broke that her home country invaded Ukraine on Tuesday, second-year Russian international student Anna Ostraya was overwhelmed with shame and frustration that her government ignored the will of the Russian people while strong-arming the sovereignty of Ukrainians.
“There is a sense of responsibility and guilt I hold, even though it is out of my control to do anything about the situation,” Ostraya said. “I am very against war, especially with a country that we share lots of history with.”
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine was set free from the grips of the failed communist regime and independently installed a democratic republic.
Russo-Ukrainian relations experienced violent turbulence in 2014 after the Russian annexation of the formerly Ukrainian Crimean peninsula and the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.
A resurgence of heightened tension between the two states materialized at the end of 2021 when Russia began mobilizing troops to the Ukrainian border, revealing a potential invasion.
The buildup leading to the Russian assault included failed discussions with the U.S., Ukraine and member states of the EU into the new year to ease the pressure.
As a Russian citizen, Ostraya said it’s important for Americans to recognize that the Russian government doesn’t act on behalf of the desires of its people, but rather its own ambitions.
“I think Americans might not understand that what the Russian government does and what actual citizens believe in, are completely different things,” she said. “Most of the Russians I know did not choose or agree with the current government.”
Ostraya fears the potential repercussions of the war, such as economic sanctions and reciprocated attacks, on Ukraine will damage the welfare of the Russian people.
The other side of Ostraya’s dorm room houses her Ukrainian roommate, who Ostraya said could not believe the news that the liberty of her home country was in danger and was scared for her family remaining in the invaded nation.
“It is very scary to see how devastated she is,” Ostraya said. “Yesterday she stayed up crying and shaking all night when they announced the war.”
Despite not having any family or heritage from the conflicted region, freshman marine biology major Sydney Tritschler said she was appalled when she learned of the invasion.
“I was shocked [when] I heard about it in the news,” Tritschler said. “I’m angry at Putin, and I’m concerned for the sovereignty of Ukraine and the future of Europe.”
The resilience the Ukrainian people have had in lieu of the uphill battle the country faces against one of the world’s most powerful nations is inspiring, according to Tritschler.
“I honestly feel very hopeful for Ukraine and proud of their soldiers and the stories I hear about them,” she said. “I’m mostly angry with the ‘need’ for violence in the first place.”
Sophomore biomedical sciences Keon Huang feels similarly and is concerned about what this attack means for the future security of other European states.
“I’m shocked and horrified,” Huang said. “I’m scared for the future of the East, as well as economic and political implications for the West.”
Huang also harbors frustrations with the leadership in the West for not being as tactful in negotiations by preventing the conflict, to begin with.
“I think we had seen it [the invasion] from a mile away, yet we still did little to nothing to stop it altogether,” he said.
Dissatisfaction with global leadership and concerns for the future of the globe are reactions junior psychology major Andrea Moreno had when she heard about the attack.
“My concerns going forward are that if other countries like the U.S. do get involved and help Ukraine,” Moreno said. “Considering he [Putin] is very power-hungry and has no sympathy for innocent people, who knows to what extent he will go to get what he wants.”
Although the fighting between Russia and Ukraine has just begun, Moreno said she is hopeful for a peaceful resolution.
“I’m definitely anxious about this conflict and sympathize with the Ukrainian people,” she said. “I’m hopeful for a better future, but it does worry me.”
USF World, a university outreach program that promotes global culture on all three campuses, said in a recent Instagram post that mental health services are available for all members of the community that are fearful of an escalation of global conflict.
“The University of South Florida recognizes that many in our university community will be affected by this International crisis in different ways,” the post said. “Whether you are a student, faculty, staff or community partner with a connection to this region of the world we understand that we all process events differently.”