Ukrainian native shares updates on Russian-invaded country

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Liza Voloshyna used to text home every two or three days.

Now it’s every day since Russian forces attacked her home country of Ukraine in March and carved a devastating path of destruction.

The texts provide reassurance that her mom, disabled grandmother and seven-year-old sister with special needs have survived another day in her war-ravaged hometown of Kherson, a port city in southern Ukraine.

Calls no longer begin with “good morning.”

Instead, Voloshyna always expresses her love and concern for her family’s health. Russian soldiers have the authority to raid homes and question residents on what they’re doing or if they have intentions of going anywhere.

“I don’t press on her to tell me everything that’s happening,” Voloshyna said. “She would never tell me because she always says, ‘honey, you have a life ahead of you and you go do your things. Don’t worry about us.’

“She’s actually one of the strongest women I know, just unbelievable.”

Voloshyna’s mom has emerged as a modern-day Harriett Tubman. 

She’s assisting families escape safely into nearby Poland and other countries that have graciously opened their borders. Many residents, according to Ukranian officials, have fled on foot or used rail transportation with nothing but the clothing on their backs.

That strength kindled Voloshyna’s spirit.

One of the most-talented student-athletes to grace a University of Mount Olive uniform, she helped lead the women’s tennis team to their second consecutive Conference Carolinas regular-season and tournament titles, and a trip to the NCAA Division II tournament.

Voloshyna also made the Conference Carolinas’ Presidential Honor Roll for the fall and spring semesters. She is an exercise science major that involves coaching and sports psychology.

New head UMO coach Carlos Lora marveled at Voloshyna’s ability to remain focused despite the adversity her country has encountered over the past four months.

“It takes a lot of courage to do what Liza is doing right now,” he said.

A rising senior at UMO, Voloshyna is currently coaching tennis in California this summer. She intends to send the money to her family so they can find sanctuary in Europe, which is less expensive and the euro currency holds more value.

Once Voloshyna graduates from UMO, she must establish herself financially for at least three years before she can bring her family to the United States.

“My mom always tries to protect my mental health and I don’t know how she’s doing everything … she’s like the man in the family,” Voloshyna said. “It’s a stressful situation and my family needs me. I can’t give up on everything.

“I’ll work, send them as much money as I can and hopefully still pay for my school next year.”

A Disaster Response Fund established by the Rotary Foundation will be used for humanitarian aid in and around Ukraine.

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