Moscow High School senior Yevheniia Kolomoiets remembers the fear she felt as she waited by her phone, hoping to hear back from her family.
Her family lived in Lysychansk in what is now one of the most dangerous areas of Ukraine. The war with Russia had started and Kolomoiets had just returned to her Moscow home from school. She heard the news about the war before her family did.
It was 4 a.m. in Ukraine, which meant her family was still asleep. It also meant they didn’t pick up the phone right away.
“It felt like hours for me, but three minutes after that, everyone woke up, everyone started texting me, ‘Hey, we’re here, everything’s fine,’ ” she said.
Kolomoiets came to the United States in 2021 as a foreign exchange student. After spending some time in Texas, she moved to Moscow to complete her senior year at Moscow High.
Being in Moscow meant she was safe from the horrors in Ukraine. Her family moved to a safer part of Ukraine, but Kolomoiets said she struggled with survivor’s syndrome.
“I felt like I’m guilty because I’m not there with them,” she said.
She calls her family every day to make sure they are OK. In the meantime, her school life has served as a much-needed distraction. She managed to combine those two parts of her life, which made it easier for her to adapt to what is happening on both sides of the world.
Kolomoiets credited her friends in Moscow for being welcoming and understanding of her situation.
“I am here on my own without my family but I am not here on my own, because I still have people ready to support me,” she said.
Kolomoiets has excelled at Moscow High School. Among her accomplishments is representing Moscow in the Idaho Speech State Championships, which is an impressive feat as a non-native speaker.
She also developed an interest in video game studies and development, which she plans on turning into a career after she attends Georgetown University on a full-ride scholarship.
This summer, she plans on visiting Ukraine for the first time since she came to the U.S. She hopes to see her friends and family and savor her mother’s home-cooked borscht.
Kolomoiets is leaving a school that gave her support and comfort during the past year. She said every teacher and student she interacted with “felt like family.”
“Even though I have been here for only one year, I do feel like I’m graduating from a school where I have been for my whole life,” she said.