Ukrainian high school student in KC rethinking education after attacks on her home city

Published: Mar. 7, 2022 at 9:54 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A local Ukrainian exchange student is now faced with uncertainty about what to do after her time as a high school senior here comes to an end.

She started here at Crossroads Academy charter school in the fall as a senior. She was supposed to return to Ukraine in May. She has a scholarship to attend college there. Now, that’s unlikely.

“I’ve been following this for a long time before, but I never could believe that it will actually happen,” she said of the eight years of conflict that recently erupted into a full-scale invasion by Russia.

Olga’s parents live in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city. They’ve described air raids to her and told her they’ve been taking cover in bomb shelters. Air strikes on the city last week may have targeted a TV tower and a Holocaust memorial. Olga said she’s definitely worried for her parents and friends.

“That’s a war and people are dying and not only the soldiers,” said Olga.

Many of her cousins have fled to neighboring Moldova, but her parents have stayed put.

“I would say they’re scared. They try not to show that to me so that I don’t feel scared. But I know they are,” she speculated.

Her host family said they’ve long followed international conflicts, reminded their children of luxuries they have as American children that others don’t and supported the oppressed, so having Olga living with them wasn’t a sudden eye opener, but video chatting with her parents has had an impact.

“I’ve met her parents and it’s just a much closer thing,” said her host father, Jeph BurroughsScanlon. “It’s just more real and alive.”

Olga’s brother is at university in Germany. She misses her parents but knows how they feel.

“My parents said to me that they’re really glad that both of their children are not in Ukraine right now, and that just makes them feel better about all of [what is] happening,” she described.

She’s not sure what she’ll be doing after May, but she’s pretty sure whatever it is, it will be in the United States, and BurroughsScanlon said she won’t have to look far for a place to live.

“She is welcome to stay with us as long as she needs to or wants to,” he said.

Olga said most of the students at her school don’t seem very engaged with what’s happening generally.

She expressed gratitude for her government teacher, who had an entire class on the conflict and had her share her experience. She said it seems like those classmates are now more informed about an important geopolitical issue that is highly personal for her.