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Former Montana exchange student details life in Ukraine during war

Posted at 5:00 PM, Mar 13, 2022

BILLINGS — Its been more than two weeks since Russian military forces started waging war in Ukraine. Here in the West, it's relatively easy to tune out the constant hum of world news, but it's not that easy when you're living in the middle of it.

"Everyone is afraid, but no one is doing anything. It's just very exhausting to listen to all of this while living in it in the same time," Yuilya Zhydetska told MTN News.

Zhydetska, 22, was an exchange student at Huntley Project High School in 2018, but she has since moved back to her home in Ukraine. She lives in Ivano-Frankivsk, a western Ukrainian city of 230,000 people that's only starting to see the brunt of war.

Yuilya said they heard air raid sirens last night in the city for two hours, the longest time yet since the conflict began. The sirens warned of three Russian bombs that fell near the city on Friday night.

"It turned out that three bombs were dropped very close to my city to the region to where I live. But thankfully, our pilots basically knocked down those bombs. So they didn't hit any houses and they were dropped in the fields. That was something that happened relatively close to where I am," Zhydetska said.

Yuliya Zhydetska is back in her hometown of Ivano-Frankivsk on the western side of Ukraine.

Zhydetska lives with her mother and stepfather in a home with no basement, so the family has taken to sheltering in the bathroom to wait out the air raid sirens. She said western Ukrainian cities along the Polish border have lately been overwhelmed with at least two million Ukrainian people fleeing devastation in the east, but people have stepped up to help.

"That's kind of an issue right now. But we have tons of volunteers preparing food. It's constant. Every day they are trying to get stuff, give it to these people that give it to the soldiers that are out there fighting," Zhydetska said.

As the fighting continues, Ukrainian leaders are telling their people to get back to their jobs, businesses and schooling. Zhydetska said many places in Ivano-Frankivsk are trying to be open by Monday, but she's unsure of how that would work with the threat of bombs that could fall from the sky at any time.

"Rockets and bombs can still drop for any reason. Obviously, the president and government want the country to work and to study because people and children can not just sit and wait and do nothing and wait for the bomb to drop, but I don't know how this will actually implement in life," Zhydetska said.

Zhydetska said her family will evacuate if the situation gets worse in their city, but for now, they are staying put. They are considering applying for a US or Canadian visa, but apointments to be interviewed and get a visa are few and far between.

"I just can not come to the realization that all of my plans are just ruined. And I don't even know what's going to happen tomorrow or next week," Zhydetska said.