Ukraine, Russian war hits close to home

Mykola “Nick” Zubyk, Illia Movchan, Davyd Hordiienko and Oleksandr “Sasha” Koreniuk, all of Ukraine, work at Ag Partners through The Foundation for Worldwide International Student Exchange internship program.

Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military to invade and attack Ukraine on Thursday, Feb. 24, and while the war is happening thousands of miles away, the news hits differently for four Ag Partners Coop interns.

According to Ag Partners’ Hiawatha Region Manager Jeff Williams, Mykola “Nick” Zubyk, Illia Movchan, Oleksandr “Sasha” Koreniuk and Davyd Hordiienko, all of Ukraine, are in the United States on year-long J1 visas through the Foundation for Worldwide International Student Exchange (WISE) program.

“They are here to work, but really they are here more for a learning experience, more so than just to be a laborer,” Williams said. “It takes a pretty good leap of faith, I think, on their part to do this. I think they are extremely brave to come halfway across the world to have a year’s experience.”

All four men came to the United States in January – with the exception of Nick, who came two weeks ago – and are currently living in Horton.

Ag Partners has also hung up signs of support throughout their office. See Page 5.

Mykola “Nick” Zubyk, 26

Education: Masters in Agronomy

Hometown: Odesa, Ukraine (Population: 993,120)

Do you still have family back in your hometown in Ukraine? If so, who is still living there? Two older sisters and one younger brother all live in Odesa and are staying there, they are far south.

Have there been attacks in your hometown? Yes.

Have you had any contact with your family since Russia invaded Ukraine? Yes.

Are you able to keep in touch with your family daily? Yes, daily.

Is your family safe? Right now, yes, but we don’t know what will happen the next day. Not my family, but a lot of people went to Poland and Moldova [for safety].

How does life here compare to life there before Russia invaded? As for me, the same because they have really good conditions there and I just came here to get new experiences and knowledge, and help me to go out of my comfort zone and my self development could go faster. That is why I decided to spend a year here, but now it’s different. We have war in our country and I don’t know what will happen after one year.

Pertaining to the current state of Ukraine, what is something you feel like Americans are unaware of, or what is the news not showing Americans? We only watch Ukrainian news, not American news.

What are you enjoying about living here? Conditions are safe and people around us are kind to us, friendly, and we appreciate it really, they support us.

What do you think about the Russian citizens who are protesting about what Putin is doing? They understand what is going on.

What do you want Americans to know about what is going on in Ukraine? There is war in Ukraine, that’s all we can say. We didn’t expect it, so now we don’t know what to expect, we can’t believe this has happened. We really worry about family, our people and country, so we pray for them.

Other: Nick has spent one year prior in the United States in Indiana.

Ukraine Infographic

Illia Movchan, 21

Education: Mechanical Engineer

Hometown: Melitopol, Ukraine (Population: 154,839)

Do you still have family back in your hometown in Ukraine? If so, who is still living there? Yes, parents.

Have there been attacks in your hometown? Yes, especially in Melitopol, because of its location to the Ukraine-Russian border.

Have you had any contact with your family since Russia invaded Ukraine? Yes.

Are you able to keep in touch with your family daily? Yes, daily.

What is your family planning to do and are they safe? My family sometimes leaves from their home because in my city now war, and one day my family leave, and one day my family goes home. They go to safety in bomb shelters, when there is a bombing and then return home when it is safe.

How does life here compare to life there before Russia invaded? I agree with Nick that we have really good conditions there and I just came here to get new experiences and knowledge.

Pertaining to the current state of Ukraine, what is something you feel like Americans are unaware of, or what is the news not showing Americans? We only watch Ukrainian news, not American news.

What do you feel like you are learning the most about American agriculture that you can take back home? How to work in corporations, because in Ukraine, they don’t have corporations.

What are you enjoying about living here? You have very friendly people.

What do you want Americans to know about what is going on in Ukraine? A lot of people want to communicate with Russians, a lot of people want to go to Russia from my city, but now nobody communicates with Russians.

What do you think about the Russian citizens who are protesting against what Putin is doing? They can do nothing. For example, if police are being unjust to a citizen in our country, others will step in to help, but not in Russia. If there is injustice, citizens look away and go home.

Other: Illia likes to eat at Subway.

Oleksandr “Sasha” Koreniuk, 22

Education: Mechanical-Industrial

Hometown: Vinnytsia, Ukraine (Population: 660,000)

Do you still have family back in your hometown in Ukraine? If so, who is still living there? Yes, parents.

Have there been attacks in your hometowns? Yes.

Have you had any contact with your family since Russia invaded Ukraine? Yes.

Are you able to keep in touch with your family daily? Yes, daily.

Is your family safe? Yes.

How does life here compare to life there before Russia invaded? I agree with Nick that we have really good conditions there and I just came here to get new experiences and knowledge.

Pertaining to the current state of Ukraine, what is something you feel like Americans are unaware of, or what is the news not showing Americans? We only watch Ukrainian news, not American news.

Davyd Hordiienko, 23

Education: Agronomy

Hometown: Poltava, Ukraine (Population: 284,942)

Do you still have family back in your hometown in Ukraine? If so, who is still living there? Yes, parents.

Have there been attacks in your hometowns? Yes.

Have you had any contact with your family since Russia invaded Ukraine? Yes.

Are you able to keep in touch with your family daily? Yes, daily.

Is your family safe? Yes.

How does life here compare to life there before Russia invaded? I agree with Nick that we have really good conditions there and I just came here to get new experiences and knowledge.

Pertaining to the current state of Ukraine, what is something you feel like Americans are unaware of, or what is the news not showing Americans? We only watch Ukrainian news, not American news.

What do you feel like you are learning the most about American agriculture that you can take back home? We can take more experiences and skills. First of all, about technologies, how to use fertilizer, chemicals and how to use them right.

What do you want Americans to know about what is going on in Ukraine? We don’t want this war on our soil, we don’t want to be together with Russia, we want to be together with Europe and this is a big problem.

What do you think about the Russian citizens who are protesting against what Putin is doing?

They are doing right. They are really scared and politics there are controlling of free people. There, it is not freedom, you cannot say what you think. Ukraine is free, Russia is not. Russian people are really scared to go protest or something. We don’t know how to explain these, because this war has split our Ukrainian and Russian people, because before we had a lot of relatives in Russia. Now we don’t like Russian people. A lot of Ukrainian soldiers are dying, a lot of citizens are dying. I think Russian people need to change the politics and move out Putin from presidency.

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