Why this Ukrainian exchange student left Seattle for a war zone back home
More than 1.9 million refugees have escaped Ukraine since Russia's invasion. Many more are expected to leave. But, Olena Bidovanets has returned to Ukraine.
Bidovanets is a psychotherapist and a Fulbright scholar at the University of Washington pursing her Master in Public Health. When the invasion into Ukraine began Bidovanets and other members of the Seattle Ukrainian community staged protests across Seattle.
But every time she supported her homeland locally, her heart said it wasn't enough.
"Felt that every time that my heart is not calm," Bidovanets said. "I don't feel that I am doing good, being in the distance."
She began to wonder if she should return to Ukraine. Bidovanets spoke with her parents and friends about the idea of traveling back to Ukraine; many of them told her to stay in Seattle. But still, it didn't feel right.
"I was raised in a family where all the principals, like, defending my country; that my country, my land, my culture is a great culture is a great treasure," Bidovanets said. "And my ancestors fought for that. Thanks to them I am who I am. I have all this treasure right now."
She continued to debate with herself if going to Ukraine, a war zone, was the right decision. Then a friend asked her a question.
"She just asked, 'What is your heart telling you? What do you feel you would love to do?' And I had the answer; that I realized I want to go," Bidovanets said.
Bidovanets soon joined a humanitarian aid group. She arrived in Ukraine last week. Her team is staged in a remote location. They’re assisting people heading for the border with medical support.
Currently, she is focusing on the logistics of finding people who have been displaced and need medical help. She’ll soon be providing therapeutic counseling.
Bidovanets says she plans to return to Seattle when the war is won, or for the fall quarter to pursue her masters.