Ukraine invasion hits close to home for East Lansing man

Ukraine invasion hits close to home for East Lansing man
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 10:17 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2022 at 12:07 AM EST
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The Russian invasion of Ukraine has impacted economies and caused an exodus of refugees.

Related: Deep dive: Why Putin wants control over Ukraine

An East Lansing man studying in Ukraine was force to leave just before the chaos started. It started as a research program for Michigan State University in Ukraine and it turned into a panic to get out.

What started as a normal January day of visiting friends and celebrating the birth of a schoolmate’s newborn ended up turning into chaos for MSU’s John Vsetecka. He, and other Americans participating in the program, receive and email from organizers telling them to pack up and get out because of the threat of a Russian invasion.

“Packing your apartment, throwing away or giving away your food that you have, saving goodbye to friends because you’re not sure when you’re going to see them,” Vsetecka recalled. “Then we boarded flights to Warsaw. Our program had set up an exit plan for us, so we didn’t have to go right back to the United States.”

Even though Vsetecka is safe in Poland, he keeps in constant contact with those he left behind on the frontlines.

“There’s no easy way to talk about it. It’s horrific,” Vsetecka said. “Every night, one of my best friends, he messages me everytime the sirens go off in the city he’s in. I get these from a lot of friends. They send the siren emojis on their phones.”

Many of those friends are living in what he calls, “Spartan conditions.”

“Several of my friends are living almost permanently in bomb shelters, especially in the capital,” Vsetecka said. “A lot of my colleagues there also losing friends and students and acquaintances they know.”

Even with all of the trauma being experiences by those in harm’s way, Vsetecka said there’s still a lot of hope.

“Ukrainians are very resilient people. They put on a good face and they’re tough,” Vsetecka said. “There’s still a lot of hope in all of this war and all of this trouble.”

Vsetecka said he hopes his story can help the people of Michigan realize what’s going on in Ukraine impacts everyone, not just those being invaded.


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