Sasha Marcone’s grandparents left their home at 8 a.m. Friday Ukraine time for a bomb shelter in Kyiv.

She used to spend the summers with them, at their house in the capital, while her parents worked in Connecticut. The senior in the Polytechnic Institute and president of the Russian Club has been texting them to make sure they’re safe.

“The bomb shelters were made in the Soviet Union,” she said. “Those weren’t recent things, but packing the to-go kit, that’s new. That was something they’ve been doing in the past month.”

Marcone is Ukrainian, but many people she has talked to didn’t even know what Ukraine was until 2014, she said. She used to let it slide when people called her Russian, but especially since the rise of Russian state-run media narratives claiming that “all Ukrainians are Russian,” she says people need to know the difference.

“After (2014), I’ve been more adamant that people refer to me by where I’m actually from, rather than letting them use a blanket term because it’s easier for them.”

Mattei Jacks, a junior in the College of Engineering and a second-generation Ukrainian American, wore a Ukrainian folk costume called a Vyshyvanka to the Ukrainian Student Association emergency meeting Thursday night. He said it’s the type of traditional clothing people would sew while chatting and relaxing in their home villages after a long day of work hundreds of years ago.

“It’s a symbol of pride wearing it,” he said. “Ukraine has pride and loyalty. They don’t give up easily.”

Social media and the easy access to news sources outside of Russia have reduced young people’s susceptibility to propaganda, Marcone said.

Marcone often reads about the same events in both Ukrainian and Russian news sources to compare the headlines and information, she said. She’s seen the effects of the altered information play out in real-time.

Her great uncle, who lives in Moscow, called her grandmother to ask if she was OK because he’d heard the news of the Ukrainian soccer team’s stadium burning down after the crowd lost control following the team’s win, Marcone said.

“A goalpost was broken because the fans got a little crazy,” she said. “But he read the news and that article said that the stadium that (the Ukrainian team) plays in burned down.”

Marcone had already experienced loss within the last month before the invasion.

“My great grandpa lived in Donbas,” she said. “He passed away a few weeks ago. It’s sad, but I’m almost grateful he doesn’t have to live through what’s happening.”

Donbas is the eastern region of Ukraine at the center of a separatist movement backed by Russia and is where Russian troops first crossed into Ukraine on Tuesday. Russia recognizes the area as part of its own territory, not part of Ukraine.

“Why is this happening?” Ukrainian Student Association President Ksenia Lewyckyj asked at the meeting. “It’s because Putin is a murderous dictator, and he has no regard for any international customs.

“He won’t be deterred by logic or reason and he’s just attacking innocent people who have done nothing to provoke him.”

Lewyckyj, a junior in the Krannert School of Management, rebuked Russia’s claim that Ukraine was born out of Russia.

“Ukraine didn’t appear after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” she said. “Ukraine has always had its own identity, culture and language. We’ve watched Ukraine fight to remain independent (against) so much Russian aggression. Ukraine is a peaceful country, and they’re not trying to initiate war.”

Marcone compared the two countries’ relationship to a pot of water.

“For the past eight years it’s been nearing boil, and now we’re finally at boiling point,” she said. “We’ve had the past eight years to do anything about the situation, but no one took it seriously. All of a sudden, everyone is scrambling to try and end something that most people don’t understand.”

Marcone sat at the front of the meeting, and while she has some loose familial ties to Russia, the Russian Club is not exclusive to students from there. She said there are students from all over the region in the club and the political climate surrounding Eastern Europe has changed in recent years.

The best way to reprimand Russia for the invasion would be targeted sanctions on the wealthy oligarchs that “have some say in what is happening,” Marcone said. Blanket sanctions hurt the Russian people “who are just trying to get by.”

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