Anastasia Dmytrenko said goodbye to her parents on Feb. 23, 2022, before boarding a train that would take her away from Kyiv, Ukraine, and her parents. She was going to a young adult conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in West Ukraine.
Dmytrenko recalls that tensions were high in Kyiv that February — rumors about the impending political conflict seemed to multiply.
“I didn’t want to think about it, believe in it,” Dmytrenko said.
Dmytrenko’s mother, usually cheerful, was anxious to see her daughter go. The family made a plan tomeet in the western part of the country if Russian forces moved into Ukraine.
“I told my mom, ‘Everything’s gonna be fine, nothing will happen, I will return back home in five days — everything’s gonna be fine,'” Dmytrenko said. “… I left my home without any idea that I would return back at all.”
A five-day young adult conference turned into a two-week shelter. It took her parents three days — typically an eight-hour trip — to get to their meeting place in Lviv, Ukraine.
Dmytrenko was a university student at the National Technical University of Ukraine (Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute) and studied robotics. With unreliable internet and a significant distance, she put a pause on her education and threw herself wholeheartedly into volunteering in Lviv.
“When it’s about your country, about your culture, about what was made by your people … it just can’t be given away,” Dmytrenko said. “It’s something that you have to fight for.”
According to Dmytrenko, volunteering was her saving grace in the months that followed the move to Lviv. Between making humanitarian packages and visiting hospitals, she was able to make life-long friends and contribute to the war effort.
In August 2022, Dmytrenko said goodbye to her mom and dad, unsure of when she would again see them in person. On a flight from Warsaw, to Amsterdam, to Salt Lake City, she made it to the U.S. determined to get an education. Her American host family welcomed her, and Dmytrenko currently studies pre-nursing at BYU-Idaho.
Today, Dmytrenko spends the holidays and school breaks hanging out with her American parents and siblings, but not a day goes by where she does not think of her remaining family back in Ukraine.
According to a casualty report on statista.com, as of February of this year, 8,101 Ukrainian civilians lost their lives, and 13,479 people have been injured since the war began.
In April 2022, the U.S. established a sponsorship program called Uniting for Ukraine. This program allows Ukrainian citizens to come to the U.S. for a two-year period on parole.
“So far, more than 115,000 Ukrainians have arrived in the U.S. under the sponsorship program,” wrote an article published by CBS News on Feb. 24.
Since 2012, 473 Ukrainians have come to Idaho, and of those arrivals, 75% came in 2022. On March 22, 26 days after the war between Ukraine and Russia began, Idaho welcomed its first wartime parolee. Since then, over 300 Ukrainians have come to Idaho seeking asylum. Most parolees have stayed in the Boise area.
The Ukrainian Welcome Center in Nampa, Idaho aids Slavic refugees with parole case management and sponsorship education in the state of Idaho.
Communities across Idaho have given their time, resources and talents to help those affected by the war. In Pocatello, a Ukrainian woman collects warm clothes and lights to bring to the refugees and Ukrainian people in Europe. In Ada County, communitymembers donate furniture, helping furnish apartments and living spaces for new Ukrainian families.
This past year, Dmytrenko watched as her three close friends joined the army, while other friends endured hardships inflicted by the war.
“I would say that it’s (Ukraine is) never-ending and it’s very, it’s really uplifting,” Dmytrenko said. “Unbreakable. We are unbreakable people.”