The Russian army has left its hometown of Kharkiv; Sweden and Finland have applied to join NATO; and Thursday was International Vyshyvanka Day.
Ukrainian University of Missouri student Vlad Sazhen wore a vyshyvanka, a traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt, on Thursday to celebrate.
He spoke at Galena Residence Hall at MU.
The day is a big holiday in Ukraine and he said he was sure everyone wore it.
“It’s one of my favorite parties” because everyone is dressed in bright colors, Sazhen said.
Kharviv, Ukraine’s second largest city and just 25 miles from the Russian border, has been shelled and shelled since day one of the invasion. Now the Russian army is retreating, Sazhen said.
After:“How can I leave this place? Ukrainian MU student’s girlfriend pleads during bombing
Sazhen said Ukrainian soldiers were approaching the Russian border. “Knowing how heroic our soldiers are, they will be at the border very soon,” Sazhen said.
He said Russia would try to keep Ukrainian forces far enough away from the border to prevent Ukrainian artillery from reaching Russia.
Sazhen’s parents and sister and his girlfriend, Alina, and her family left Kharkiv for safer Poltava at the start of the Russian invasion.
Alina’s parents took advantage of the lull in the fighting to quickly return to Kharkiv while Alina remained in Poltava, Sazhen said.
They sent a video from Kharkiv to Sazhen, showing their building damaged by a rocket. Their apartment suffered damage, including a broken window next to the office where Alina studied.
Volunteers are working to clean up and repair the damage in Kharkiv, he said.
“Ukrainian volunteers are so amazing,” he said.
His family and Alina’s family are both starting to discuss a return to Kharkiv, but they don’t want to return prematurely, he said.
They can wait another month, he said.
Previously:Ukrainian University of Missouri students plan reunion with loved ones amid war with Russia
Sazhen and Alina were awarded three-year non-resident scholarships as MU’s International Student and Scholars Services work to bring Alina to MU and keep Sazhen here as students at full time looking for a degree. Sazhen is currently an exchange student, but this has been extended, allowing him to stay.
They would each still need $30,094 a year to attend UM, and officials are working to help raise the funds. Those interested in donating can email David Currey, Director of International Student and Academic Services, at [email protected]
Although Vladimir Putin used the potential of Ukraine’s NATO membership as one of his pretexts for the invasion, the attack led Sweden and Finland to formally apply to become members of the multinational military alliance.
“I think it’s unbelievable,” Sazhen said, adding that the two countries were ignoring Russian threats.
Stephen Quackenbush, associate professor at MU, spoke about Putin’s plan that backfired at the start of the invasion.
Putin wants a weak NATO, but the invasion has created the opposite result, he said.
“He wants a divided West,” Quackenbush said of Putin. “He has done an outstanding job of unifying NATO.”
A Russian soldier pleaded guilty this week to a war crime.
“In the Suma region at the end of February, this 62-year-old man was riding his bike, talking on the phone. This guy shot him,” Sazhen said.
The soldier said he was afraid the man would reveal his location, but that didn’t matter, Sazhen said.
“Killing a civilian is a war crime,” he said.
Ukrainian soldiers who have been defending a steel plant in Mariupol for weeks are now in Russian hands. The International Red Cross registered them as prisoners of war, although the Russian government labeled them terrorists.
“Everyone in Ukraine hopes they come back safe and sound,” Sazhen said.
Roger McKinney is the Tribune’s educational reporter. You can contact him at [email protected] or 573-815-1719. He’s on Twitter at @rmckinney9.