St. Mark's VI Former Veronika Kitsul is from Dolishnie Zaluchchia, a village of under 2,000 residents in the western part of Ukraine. As one can imagine, the upheaval in Kitsul's home country during the past two months has been unnerving, especially since she has been watching events from a distance while worrying about family and friends.
"Today's escalation feels very close to home," Kitsul remarked in her recent chapel talk to the School community. Understandably, she is "saddened and angered," yet she urged her peers to "ask questions and act."
"If you are deeply convinced something is not working as it should," Kitsul told those gathered in the Putnam Family Arts Center's Class of '45 Hall, "be brave enough to voice your opinion."
Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Kitsul has been busy speaking up and taking action. We sat down with her to learn more about the war, and to ask questions about the reports she is receiving from Ukraine, the information she is disseminating, and the ways those of us living abroad can aid humanitarian efforts.
In February, Kitsul participated in a Boston march to show public support and solidarity for the people of Ukraine. She was accompanied by St. Markers Darius Wagner '23, Jeamilett Martinez '24, Louise He '23, Aidan Khamis '22, Karry Kim '25, and Rory Hutchins '25. Faculty members, including Kitsul's advisor Dr. Dejai Barnes and Rev. Barbara Talcott, also attended the march to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The Boston protest, along with others across the country, was documented in several news outlets, including The New York Times.
This photograph of the march from Veronika (left, in the white shirt) was taken by Bryan Sukidi of Milton Academy; the friend with Kitsul (holding the sign) is Yevgeniya Regent, who is a Ukrainian student at Milton Academy.
"I've actually never been to any other protests before," shared Kitsul. "It was an interesting experience. The spirit was very home-like because a lot of people also spoke Ukrainian. There were a lot of traditional songs that we sang," she recalled. "And we were actually walking at the very front of the march."
In addition to attending the protest, Kitsul has tried to educate her peers and the School community by sharing information on the war via email and including suggestions on ways to help Ukraine. She put up posters around campus and also asked the administration to issue an official statement. Thus far, the St. Mark's community has shown support for Ukraine by lighting peace candles, playing the Ukrainian national anthem on the organ in Belmont Chapel, curating an informational display in the library, and hosting a town hall meeting.
"It was hard in the beginning because it was so surreal," admitted Kitsul, who has been communicating with her family every day since the war began. Fortunately, her family is in a more peaceful and rural area of the country, where they have been working to provide supplies and food for the Ukrainian army. Kitsul has other relatives and friends living all across Ukraine, including those closer to the conflict in Kyiv. While some have evacuated, others have remained.
"I have one friend I've been talking to, and he just can't sleep at night because he has to monitor all the sirens and air raiders," said Kitsul.
"There's so much propaganda...and miscommunication," she admitted, noting the importance of getting news from reputable sources. Since the war started, Kitsul has been helping to disseminate credible news by working as a volunteer translator for the Ukrainian Parliament page and posting on their official channel.
As the only Ukrainian student at St. Mark's, she is clearly carrying a heavy burden. When asked how the community can best support her, Kitsul replied: "It helps when people are trying to find ways to help, and ask what's going on and try to understand the situation better. To make the most impact, it would be through donations."
"It's also very important to talk to your government officials," Kitsul added. "The one thing we need most is military help."
"With the revolution that happened in 2014, the [Ukrainian] people just proved that they don't want pro-Russian anything happening in the country, and they really want to be a European country," she said. "It's about our values."
Kitsul hopes that other countries around the world who value democracy will support Ukraine in the war. For her part, Kitsul is trying to secure medical aid and fundraise with friends to buy supplies in the U.S. that are not currently available in Europe—supplies that can then be sent directly home.
For those looking to offer support from abroad, this linktree provided by Kitsul includes several resources for volunteering, donating, and staying informed.