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A Ukrainian-American watches the war from Connecticut

Watching the War in Ukraine from Connecticut
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Vasyl Matsyuk, a Ukrainian-American student at Yale Divinity School describes his time in class as an escape of sorts. Lectures force him to pay enough attention to pull his mind away from Ukraine.

Many Ukrainians in Connecticut have had sleepless nights over the past week.

Vasyl Matsyuk is among them. He’s a 32-year old student at Yale Divinity School. He and his family immigrated to the U.S. when he was twelve.

Matsyuk spoke with Connecticut Public Radio’s Diane Orson on day six of the Russian invasion. Here are highlights from their conversation:

On watching the war from afar

The feelings have been very much like a roller coaster, going from shock and anger to hope and again back to fear. It’s been an emotional vortex of feelings.

Watching the War in Ukraine from Connecticut
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
On his couch at home in New Haven, Vasyl Matsyuk looks through social media posts on his phone."Doom scrolling" is the term Vasyl uses to describe the endless cycle of flicking through news on his phone. He says it can be hard to pull himself away and pay attention to the rest of his life.

On being Ukrainian-American

It’s only been within the last year that I realized myself to be a Ukrainian-American. Maybe it's the political situation that kind of solidifies identity.

Previously maybe I thought of myself as Ukrainian living in America. But after 20 years, you realize - I’m not exactly fully Ukrainian because I’m not in Ukraine fighting this war. And at the same time, I’m also not American because I have this heritage, this responsibility to do what I can for my people.

Rally at Yale School of Medicine
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Vasyl Matsyuk (right) joins in quiet song as the Ukrainian national anthem is played before the gathered crowd on Yale University’s campus on March 3, 2022.

On a spiritual component of the conflict

There are two stories that we need to be telling. There’s the story of the horrendous evil that’s happening as we speak. And that leads me, and I believe it should lead others, to lament and to grieve.

But then there’s the second story. And that’s the story of hope. As someone who is an aspiring theologian, I think we must talk about the future. We need to imagine, and not just imagine, but believe that in the end Ukraine will stand. It will overcome this horrendous evil and it will rebuild.

If you want to support the people of Ukraine, here’s how you can help.

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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