By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
As the war in Ukraine rages on and proof of atrocities against civilians mounts, University of Wyoming’s only Ukrainian student is on a mission to garner support for her home country.
Anastasiia Pereverten is an exchange student from Ukraine who arrived in Laramie in January, several weeks before the invasion of her country by Russian soldiers.
Since the war began, Pereverten has reached out to students, staff and community members to educate them on her culture in an attempt to help them connect what’s happening there.
“So after we held our first rally, a professor of political science suggested me giving a lecture with her class,” Pereverten told Cowboy State Daily. “So last week, I was giving a lecture on Ukrainian society, about my history and my personal experience of existing and functioning and working, just being a part of Ukrainian society.”
Pereverten said in her presentation, she emphasized the feelings of loyalty that her generation has towards Ukraine.
“It’s our country, and we will defend our country until the very victory,” she said.
Pereverten said that students and staff at the University have embraced her cause. At an International Flavors Festival last weekend, Pereverten said she prepared traditional Ukrainian dishes using her grandmother’s recipes and was pleasantly surprised at the popularity of the Ukrainian cuisine.
“We were expecting to sell those within like four hours or something, but we ran out of food within one and a half hours,” she said. “We fundraised more than $2,000 within one and a half hours, donating (the money) to World Central Kitchen, which currently is providing Ukrainian refugees and Ukrainian civilians and the army in Ukraine, in Kyiv and Kharkiv and Odessa, supporting local volunteers cooking food for territorial defense and Ukrainian army.”
Recently, Pereverten had a moment in which she began to realize that her personal campaign has made an impact.
“When the war started, I provided the university with a list of books I can post about Ukraine in English, so that our faculty and students have a chance to enrich their knowledge on Ukrainian history, Ukrainian culture,” she said. “Because a huge, huge part of this war and the pretext to this war was disinformation and Russian propaganda, and acquiring books in the library would be a great way to start this process. So I suggested to the library to buy these books.
“Two days ago, I was walking to the library and I noticed an art book of Ukrainian artists, which I had on my list, and it’s being delivered to the library” she continued. “That’s absolutely stunning and astonishing. I almost started crying.”
Since the war started, Pereverten said she has been constantly emailing, meeting people, attending meetings and giving speeches to raise awareness about the plight of Ukraine.
And although she’s feeling, finally, that she is making progress, there is still much work to be done.
This weekend, two free public events will allow for further education on how Wyomingites can express their solidarity with Ukraine.
On Friday, the UW Center for Global Studies is hosting a panel discussion in the UW College of Business Building with keynote speakers Richard Holwill (a retired U.S. ambassador) and UW economics professor Alexandre Skiba, who is himself from Ukraine.
Then on Saturday, a rally titled “Stand With Ukraine – Laramie” is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at Laramie’s First Street Plaza.
“The rally is to show that people don’t feel indifferent toward what’s going on in my country,” Pereverten said. “And people want to see the government implementing, not just declaring, but implementing certain actions against Russia and in support of Ukraine.”
Pereverten added that for those who would like to support the efforts of organizations on the ground in Ukraine, she and other volunteers will be on hand to provide ways to do so.
“Volunteer groups are providing the Ukrainian army with medical supplies, with ammunition, with transport and food and everything,” she said, but added it’s important to be selective, as many international NGOs (non-governmental organizations) usually take large percentages of donations for administrative expenses.
“Those will never ever reach Ukraine, in essence, so that’s why we want to inform people on how to support Ukraine efficiently,” Pereverten said.
Of her parents and family still living in a war zone, Pereverten said they are currently safe, having escaped the capital city of Kyiv when the fighting began.
“They’re considering the option of coming back to Kyiv, which seems to be relatively protected again,” she said. “And we have 100% confidence in our victory.”