A student describes the homeland where she grew up. She spent her time with her family in the town which demonstrated the diverse culture of the land with its nearby countryside filled with small farms with cows and chickens near the meandering river. The fond memories of growing up in a place like this remain closely tied to Elizabeth Dotsenko.
Now those memories of growing up in Ukraine have turned bittersweet for Dotsenko.
“It really was one of my favorite places, and I can’t imagine I can’t go back,” Dotsenko describes his home in Borshchahivka, Ukraine. my heart that I can’t go back.
Actively involved in the Marist community as a member of Delta Epsilon Mu, the coeducational pre-health fraternity, and webmaster of the Marist Global Health Society, Dotsenko will soon be graduating with a biomedical degree with minors in philosophy and chemistry.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Dotsenko has been collecting donations on campus which she drives to New York to deliver to donation drop sites. These donations go to organizations like Razom for Ukraine, Sunflowers for Peace and Voices of Children.
While on campus, she raised $1,000 for an organization called Project Hope that provides humanitarian aid to Ukrainians.
Although there was a lot of support from the Marist community during the brutality of the war, Dotsenko does not yet have a proper platform to talk about the situation facing Ukrainians.
The biggest event on campus to raise awareness to date was the vigil held just after the war began on March 1. Dotsenko wanted the opportunity to say a few words about the situation facing Ukrainians, including his family and friends who currently live there, but to no avail. “What I have to say is that when we organized the vigil for Ukraine, I emailed President Weinman. He never replied to my email,” Dotsenko said. .
Dotsenko’s email said she was involved with several clubs and organizations on campus to raise funds for organizations providing aid to Ukraine. She asked to meet with President Weinmen to potentially speak at his fundraising vigil and express her personal thoughts on the war. Considering other sources, she asked Brother Frank, at her request, to speak at the event. He told her that the service is “exclusively [for] pray.”
Dotsenko says she understands where the event organizers are coming from because it is their event that they control.
“As someone very directly affected by the situation who has friends and family there, I have to check in every morning to make sure they are okay,” she said. “The fact that I’m not even allowed to talk and encourage people to help, I feel like the distance that’s already been put into the situation is just overstated in a way.”
Unlike Marist, the Vassar College student vigil had the opportunity to make a statement and express their feelings at the event, which Dotsenko feels she wishes she could have done to Marist given that she is a Ukrainian-American student.
Dotsenko didn’t let this slight challenge deter her from what matters most to her.
While Dotsenko works here in the United States to bring aid to his homeland, his mother has made her own efforts on the ground in Ukraine to protect her family. Valerie and three of her cousins live just outside Kyiv. At the start of the invasion, Valerie forced one of three cousins and her 11-year-old child to flee with her to Poland from Odessa after her husband was left behind to fight for Ukraine. Unfortunately, the other two cousins were stuck in Ukraine. One of the cousins had her house surrounded by reservoirs as she tried to care for her six-month-old child with no food or water in their basement. Fortunately, this cousin was able to flee to Poland to join Valérie, and the third cousin and her child joined them soon after.
Immediate family and friends of Dotsenko and Valerie in Ukraine remained safe and sound. However, this war took its toll on Dotsenko and his entire family, both physically and emotionally. Dotsenko, though safe in the United States, says she feels a level of survivor’s guilt knowing how her family and friends feel about the brutality of war. Even though Dotsenko is a busy student finishing the semester like all of her peers, she still feels like she should do more to help out. “I absolutely want to drop everything and go help out there,” she said.
For Dotsenko, the desire to help in any way possible and the desire to know everything she can about what is happening in Ukraine took precedence. Although media coverage of the war in Ukraine continues on a lesser scale, Dotsekno still asks that people continue to pay attention to what is happening during this war.
“It’s just a steady progression, and it hasn’t died out even though it may seem that way,” Dotsenko said. “The consequences and effects of the war have not diminished at all.”
For however bleak the current situation for Ukraine may seem, Dotsenko clings to the hope that one day Ukraine will recover from the devastation of this war.
“I feel that in one form or another it’s coming back and the support we’ve had not just from Marists but from communities around the world,” Dotsenko said. “So, as futile as it is right now, and as sad as I am about it right now, I deeply hope there is some kind of phoenix of the moment from the ashes.”