“A part of me died today.”
Serhiy Fedusov started his Facebook post with those words April 4, after he saw shocking images of the carnage in Bucha, Ukraine, that were captured by Agence France-Presse.
“Hundreds of unarmed civilians were murdered by r*ssian military retreating from Kyiv region,” wrote Fedusov, a native of Ukraine who studied at New Philadelphia High School in 2015 and 2016. “Men, women, children. Some of them had their hands tied behind their back, possessing absolutely no threat. Animals were reportedly shot for fun.
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“I hope nobody has a doubt — Ukraine is fighting an absolute evil. Evil, that is so concentrated it leaves only pain and ruins behind. A part of me that believed in humanity died today.”
He posted his comments above a link to a CNN story headlined: Bodies of ‘executed people’ strewn across street in Bucha as Ukraine accuses Russia of war crimes.
Fedusov, now studying for a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Stuttgart, has been sharing his views, in English, about Russia’s war against Ukraine since Feb. 28.
On March 5, he wrote:
Dear friends. Ten days of the war have passed. Ukrainian cities are bravely holding the enemy back. Yesterday russian artillery was firing at the biggest nuclear station in Europe near Zaporizhzhia. How sick someone should be to do this? According to the reports, the station is currently safe (fortunately).
Every day I am getting more and more proud to be Ukrainian. I have never felt anything like it before the war. People of Kherson (temporary controlled by russian forces) came out for the demonstration today. They have rejected the “humanitarian aid” from the enemy and were shouting at them to “go home”.
At the same time, people in russia are to afraid to join the peaceful demonstrations. This is a huge difference between us. Ukrainians and russians just cannot be one nation, because Ukrainians are not the nation of cowards.
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Our air defense systems worked great today. Today they have grounded around 9 russian planes, and those will not be able to fly anymore. Those planes were targeting civilian’s houses, hundreds of which are now destroyed. Of course, we will rebuild everything, but we won’t be able to bring back our people. Mr Putin, are Ukrainian kids also nazis or are their homes military objects? Otherwise I don’t understand, why they have to die now.
When this nightmare ends and peace in Ukraine is restored, I want every citizen of the world to remember it. Remember us, who are now giving their lives to protect the democracy and freedom.
His posts include a plea to judge any Russian news or government statements as lies by default.
“The propaganda is usually extremely aggressive,” Fedusov wrote on March 28. “Also, it is more powerful than the truth, simply because it is not bounded to reality. They can make up any stories they want to reach their goal.”
“I’d like all people who live in America to not fall for those tricks of propaganda because it’s working all over the world. It’s trying to sneak through any hole it can. The best thing you can do is to be skeptical, think, to analyze,” he told The Times-Reporter in a video call on April 4.
Fedusov was an exchange student in New Philadelphia under the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program funded by the U.S. State Department. FLEX provides scholarships for high school students from Europe and Eurasia to spend an academic year in the U.S. Its stated goal is to promote mutual understanding between citizens of the United States and countries in the region, as students learn more about the U.S. and teach Americans about their countries.
He came here from his home town, Zhovti Vody, located in the center of Ukraine. His host parents were Liz and Michael Walker of New Philadelphia.
Fedusov subsequently received a bachelor degree’s degree in applied mathematics from National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” in Kyiv, where he lived for four years before departing for Germany on Oct. 1.
His brother, 30, remains in Ukraine as a member of its army. Fedusov plans to send money from the pay he receives as a software engineer to his brother.
“He actually sends me a message every morning,” said Serhiy, 22. “This is our daily ritual. I am waiting every morning to see his message.”
Serhiy’s parents are out of range of the war. His father took a job in Poland about a year before the war started. His mother stayed in Ukraine to take care of his grandmother, but joined her husband in Poland after she died.
“They are fortunately safe, my mother and my father. They didn’t have to go through this terrible experience,” Fedusov said.
He has been helping war refugees, relatives of his girlfriend, since the first week of the war.
“We were trying to organize information for them how to get out of the danger areas, how to move to a safer place,” Fedusov said. “We were connecting them with people who were volunteering in Ukraine at the time who helped them with their move, with food and water supplies.
“At that time, we didn’t know how things will turn tomorrow or a week. Now it’s more predictable. It’s more calm,” Fedusov said.
They are currently staying in the same town as Fedusov and his girlfriend. They are in Esslingen am Neckar in the Stuttgart region in southern Germany,
“We are also trying to organize people here to … help them register and be at the local offices and local authorities’ offices to help them get shelter, a place to stay. We were hosting some people at our apartment,” Fedusov said.
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His said his first volunteer experience came when, as an exchange student, he helped at the Tuscarawas County Humane Society.
“I started to like dogs,” he said.
The experience helped him learn through personal experience how individuals can make a difference where they live.
“I believe that the United States were a great lesson of how community can be structured and how people can be active in their communities, how people can make changes in their communities,” he said. “I really like democracy, when people rule their country and they feel a responsibility for their country.”
Although he is safe in Germany, Fedusov has been personally affected by the war in his homeland. It affected his ability to focus on his graduate studies. He had passed two exams before the war started, but was unable to take two others after the war started. He plans to take them next year.
“We do experience, I’d say, hard psychological pressure,” he said. “When it continues for a month or — I don’t know how long it will last — more. You kind of get used to it. It is scary but you get used to it. We are getting used to it.
“We are working towards our victory. For sure, we hope for the best. We try to stay in touch. That’s how we show our love.”
Fedusov is grateful for the backing the U.S. has offered to his home country.
“I’d like to thank you, the American government, and the American people for their support,” he said. “I cannot overvalue it. It is incredibly important for Ukraine..
“I understand that American society is also struggling because of those actions. I see that prices go up in Germany, too — prices for the gas, prices for food, for essential supplies.
“I believe putting the pressure on an aggressor, on the military criminals, is the right thing to do because we are all people.
“We will win,” Fedusov said. “We will cope with everything. We’ll go through it.”
This article originally appeared on The Times-Reporter: Former NP exchange student talks about Russia’s war against Ukraine