by Ella Hurwitz, Alex Zakuta & Lily Zarr, News Reporters and News Editor
photo by Ines Koci
On Feb. 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, resulting in a devastating humanitarian crisis that has sparked an international outcry of support for Ukrainians. The Newton community has come together to support one another and relief efforts in Ukraine. At South, students and teachers have mobilized to create NSHS Students for Ukraine, a club dedicated to spreading awareness and raising funds for the ongoing crisis.
Many people in the South community have personal ties to Ukraine, including parent Vitaly Zakuta, who grew up in Kyiv and has family and friends in Ukraine.
“I’m still in shock. Nothing like that has happened in my lifetime,” he said. “[I saw] a picture of a building where the whole wall on one side was missing, and it looked like the building where I used to live, so it really brought it home for me.”
Junior and NSHS Students for Ukraine member Dan Brudnyy said that his father, who had been working in Russia, fled the country at the beginning of the war.
Zakuta said that a friend in Ukraine has experienced bombings firsthand and is now trying to get out of the country.
“He woke up at four in the morning from the explosions, and it was surreal,” he said. “Now people who are there are just trying to survive. They don’t have time to be shocked anymore.”
Junior and NSHS Students for Ukraine member Pavlo Deynega immigrated to the United States from Ukraine four years ago. He said that he fears for his family members in Ukraine, whose days now consist of supplying soldiers with ammunition and medicine kits and staying sheltered inside.
“Right now I’m trying to move all of them out,” he said. “I’m worried about my grandparents and how they’re doing because I can’t help them physically. I can only help them from here by donating to organizations [in] the country.”
To give students like Deynega a way to contribute to relief efforts and a safe space to talk about the conflict, English teacher Natalia Taube founded the NSHS Students for Ukraine club.
“There are many Russian and Ukrainian kids here and also kids with a social conscience, kids who always want to help and do something,” she said. “I wanted to provide a place where people could come and talk and be with other kids who have family in Ukraine or Russia.”
The club spreads awareness about the war through its Instagram account, @nshsforukraine, and is selling bracelets to raise money for Boston Aide for Ukraine, an organization that provides displaced Ukrainians with essentials like food, shelter and bedding.
Freshman Skyler Montgomery said she bought a bracelet to promote conversation about the war and to raise money for Ukrainians.
“I wanted to show support for Ukraine in a way that would help others bring the war up in conversation,” she said. “It’s a good way to donate to a group that will support Ukrainians in the best way possible.”
On March 25, residents gathered in Newton Centre where Mayor Ruthanne Fuller spoke in support of Ukraine.
“We know what is at stake goes beyond the borders of Ukraine,” she said. “As citizens of the world, this conflict is a test of our commitment to individual liberty, to democracy and to the rule of law.”
Russian and Spanish teacher Jill Christensen said that it is good that the South and Newton communities have come together to support Ukraine by selling bracelets and holding rallies.
“Those things are great because it gives people a way to have their voice be heard and to let other people know that this matters and that it’s something that we should be talking about,” she said.
In addition to donating money, Zakuta said that people can promote the cause by contacting their politicians to ask them to advocate for Ukrainians.
“A way to help Ukranians is talking to our local, state and federal representatives to let them know that this is really bad, that this can’t go on and something needs to be done,” he said.
Junior and NSHS Students for Ukraine club member Sarah Scarr said that maintaining support for Ukraine is necessary as the war continues.
“It’s easy to forget about it in our lives because we have things like SATs and college applications, but teenagers in Ukraine have to escape and leave their families or take care of their siblings or their parents,” she said. “People should remain aware of how much privilege we have in the United States and what we can do and not forget about people in Ukraine.”