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Ukrainian who worked on Cape Cod this past summer tells of life in Ukraine today

Yevheniia Tovstyk in front of Nobska Lighthouse in Falmouth. Yevheniia is a J1 student living in Ukraine now. She worked and lived in Falmouth in the summer of 2021.
Courtesy Yevheniia Tovstyk
Yevheniia Tovstyk in front of Nobska Lighthouse in Falmouth. Yevheniia is a J1 student living in Ukraine. She worked and lived in Falmouth in the summer of 2021.

More than 2 million Ukrainians have now fled their country since Russia invaded last month. That's according to the United Nations.

But many are staying to help family members who can't leave.

That includes Yevheniia Tovstyk, who was a student on J1 visa working at Dunkin Donuts on Main Street in Falmouth last summer.

The 24-year old says she's staying with her family in their home in Dnipro in Central Ukraine — at least for now.

Here is her conversation with CAI's Sam Houghton on Morning Edition. Posted below are charitable organizations that are helping Ukrainians during the crisis.

Sam Houghton: Tell us what life was like just two or three weeks ago, and how things have changed since February 24th.

Yevheniia Tovstyk: Actually, life was pretty normal in Ukraine. People went to work, people went to coffee shops with their friends, so life was actually really normal.

And despite the fact that American and British media, they told us that Russian's army was close to Ukrainian border, but like no one actually believed that. I think that was our mistake, unfortunately.

Everything changed on February 24, when most people just woke up because of explosions. As for me — for the first few hours — I didn't have internet in my house, and it was really terrible because I was thinking, what is going on? Are my friends and relatives are still alive? So it was terrifying.

SH: Now tell us kind of where you are now, what city you're in, and I understand you're living with family right now.

YT: Right now, it's still quiet in my city - Dnipro. I am with my family here. The region has not seen fighting, so we are hosting refugees from Kiev here and other regions.

SH: Talk about your decision to stay there in your in your home.

YT: I decided to stay here as long as I can with my family, because my grandparents have a really tough situation because of health. They require a lot of medicine. And my grandmother can't even walk, so it will be pretty hard to to go somewhere else.

SH: Is there is there a fear that, you know, Russians will kind of advance to your city? And have you thought about what you might do then?

YT: Of course, I have thought a lot about this, and it's actually true because pro-Russian troops are already in the region right near us? So, if there will be any explosions and bombarding in my city, I will try to go to Poland.

SH: A lot of the press that we get here in the states shows how resilient President Zelensky is and really the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian people in general. Talk about what that means to you as Ukrainian and how that feels to see that?

YT: Actually, I feel really proud of my nation. We are all brave and we are all ready to fight today to defend our lands, our homelands, our families. And I believe you have seen a lot of live videos of people who just went outside their homes without any weapons to try to stop a tank. Just regular civilians tryin to stop a tank. It's amazing.

The people in Ukraine are supporting each other and everybody is trying to do their best to help. They do not want to be part of Russia and they do not support the Russian army.

Yevheniia Tovstyk on a recent visit to Pripyat this fall (Chernobyl Exclusion Zone), which is now occupied by Russian troops.
Courtesy Yevheniia Tovstyk
Yevheniia Tovstyk on a recent visit to Pripyat this fall (Chernobyl Exclusion Zone), which is now occupied by Russian troops.

SH: For you, have the U.S. and NATO and other European countries, have they done enough for Ukraine? What what can Americans do to to help you there?

YT: Significant assistance could be provided by NATO if they close the sky of Ukraine. This means that both sides will not use aviation, which will help our ground troops, as well as save thousands, and maybe millions of innocent residents of cities and villages. I would like to ask that people who want the war to end to go to rallies in support of Ukraine as well to create petitions and go to rallies in support of closing the skies over Ukraine.

For regular Americans, Ukrainians need any kind of help, whether financial, humanitarian or military. So if people want to help, we have a lot of charity foundations. They can just simply donate or they can also send humanitarian aid like clothes or perishable foods, medicine, and baby products directly to Ukraine.

A list of charities to donate to help:

National Bank of Ukraine Opens Special Account to Raise Funds for Ukraine’s Armed Forces:

NBU Opens Fundraising Account for Humanitarian Assistance to Ukrainians Affected by Russia’s Aggression:


Charitable Foundation "Come back alive":

Other foundations and charities:

Sam Houghton left CAI in February, 2023, to become News Editor at the Martha's Vineyard Times.
He worked at CAI since the summer of 2017. Before that, he worked at the Falmouth Enterprise, where he covered local politics.