Ukrainian Webster student adjusts to ‘new normal’

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For Dariia Sidorova, most days are the same. She goes throughout her day with hardly any electricity, no warmth, no fresh meals, sometimes no water and running to the basement when she hears the air raid sirens. 

Graphic by Kenzie Akins

Sidorova lives in the center of Kyiv, Ukraine, and life surrounded by war is starting to become typical for her. 

“When you’re under pressure for such a long time, you’re going to get used to this pressure,” Sidorova said. “It’s something that’s very, very normal right now.” 

Before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Sidorova was studying strategic communications on Webster University’s Vienna campus. After she received a phone call from her mom that the war had started, she decided to move back to Ukraine and be closer with her family. 

“[The phone call] made me a completely different person,” Sidorova said. “It was a trauma.” 

Many of the air raid sirens went off during Sidorova’s class time, so she spent most of her time trying to study in the basement where it is safe from the dangers outside. 

Sidorova is currently staying in her own apartment not far from her family and friends. 

She recalls Oct. 10 being one of the scariest days of her life. Sidorova was visiting her family’s house in Kyiv when there was a missile attack only one kilometer (about 0.62 miles) away from her. When Sidorova and her family heard the explosions, they went to the basement. 

The images of injured people, lost children and chaos will remain permanent in Sidorova’s mind. 

“I’ve never experienced anything more terrible in my life,” Sidorova said. “It’s something that will be with you forever.” 

Sidorova was participating in her classes online up until Oct. 10, when Russia targeted energy infrastructure within the region

“I just told my professors I can’t do anything about it, like I can’t change things,” Sidorova said. 

With everything going on around her, Sidorova spends most of her days working and studying. During the rare times when there is power or connection on her phone, she attends her classes the best she can at Webster Vienna. Sidorova is also studying at a university in Ukraine, mostly educating herself.

Due to the power outage, Sidorova and her family prepare water and ready meals. Her mom also cooks many dishes a few days in advance to make sure there is always something to eat. 

“The surprising thing is that we are getting used to this,” Sidorova said. “We shouldn’t get used to this because it’s not how things should be.” 

Sidorova’s family also had a construction business in Irpin. However, about 70% of Irpin’s buildings have been destroyed, including her family’s business. They temporarily moved to another office, but there is no work since the focus is not on construction right now.

Because of this, Sidorova is trying to help her family financially with her remote job for Humphery’s Cabinets. She talks to the clients and sketches drawings of units before they build it on site. 

When asked what has impacted her the most during this time, Sidorova responded with her happiness. 

Sidorova never realized how much love she has for her city and how attached she is to Kyiv and her family before the war. 

After everything started, the only thing Sidorova could think about was wanting to go back home, despite how unsafe it was. Sidorova wants to be useful and help rebuild Kyiv and the economy all while trying to survive. 

“I just know my life before this [war] and I know my life after, and these are two completely different things,” Sidorova said. 

Sidorova has not thought about where she will be after college, but she hopes to be back in Vienna for school next year. Right now, she is going to keep taking this time to just be with her family. 

When the invasion started in February, Sidorova remembers everyone raising awareness and protesting, but she notices how that passion has immensely gone down since. 

“What is happening right now, there is not that much awareness,” Sidorova said. “I always keep asking my international friends just to talk about this, talk, talk, talk, go to protests, post any Instagram stories you can just to raise awareness so that people can see what’s actually happening.” 

With no power, no warmth, no normal young adult life and spending most of her time in the basement trying to get an education and work, Sidorova does not want people to forget the tragic things happening right now in Ukraine.

“My strong suggestion here would be for everyone to keep talking about it and don’t forget that this is happening in the center of Europe,” Sidorova said.

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Kelly Bowen
Staff Writer | + posts

I am a journalism major. I play on the women’s soccer team at Webster. I enjoy coffee, Mexican food and watching The Real Housewives of Orange County with my sister.