KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — As millions continue to flee Ukraine, some remain behind, including a former Kalamazoo student.
Anna Yudina spent one year at Loy Norrix High School as a foreign exchange student. She was attending classes there when Russia’s annexation of Crimea took place. Now, she is in her home country, on the run while it is under attack.
“Before, I was too far away. I didn’t know how it feels from the inside of the country. I just remembered a lot of wars and everything going on,” Yudina said. “Now, it’s the same, but I’m basically inside the situation. There’s no feeling of my own safety anymore.”
Yudina is among the Ukrainians bearing the brutal reality of war, forced to decide between staying or going as a matter of life or death.
“From time to time, we feel bad, or we feel worse,” Yudina said. “Now, it’s kind of a standstill … waiting. You don’t feel anything. You’re just tired of constant fear and just trying to figure out how to leave.”
When Russian forces began invading on Feb. 24, Yudina left Kyiv — her hometown — that evening, packing everything she could into just a few backpacks. Some of them were from her time as a foreign exchange student at Loy Norrix High School.
“Any shellshock has faded away a long time ago. It’s already past 28 days (Wednesday), so it’s already a habit of living in a new place. It’s already a habit of living in a war,” Yudina said.
Yudina is still in Ukraine at an undisclosed location. She is able to stay in contact with her parents and two brothers in the Sumy region, which is partially under Russian control.
“We try to call each other every morning, every night to check if everything is fine. We’re texting a lot. There is no problem with connection,” Yudina said.
But she is also grateful for her host family, Loy Norrix teachers and even fellow exchange students from her time in Kalamazoo, who she says continue to reach out to her.
“It’s comforting knowing that you are not forgotten, which means that our country isn’t to be forgotten now,” Yudina said.
Yudina has a message she also doesn’t want the world to forget. She says this is not just Putin’s war, given the nationalist propaganda being spread throughout Russia.
“It’s not all the Kremlin’s war. The Russians are responsible for choosing (Putin) for letting him grow so much power. They are responsible for what is going on here and the reaction that is going on in Russia,” Yudina said.
Yudina added that a family member who lives in Russia called her a week ago. She says he truly believes the propaganda being spread over there — when she tried to tell him about the destruction going on in her country, he wished she and her relatives died.