"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

"The best way to predict your future is to create it." Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln High School Statesman

Lest we forget Ukraine

Milena Vercellino, a sophomore at LHS, is the daughter of a Ukrainian immigrant. (Photo used with permission by Sarah Ailts)

A quick glance at the New York Times on Nov. 20, shows many headlines reporting on the Israel-Hamas war, including an entire section on the headline page devoted to the topic. However, if one wishes to read updated information on the war in Ukraine, one must dive deeper. 

The conflict in Ukraine has become a small background story falling far behind coverage on Gaza. The media moves quickly, bouncing from story to story and topic to topic. The Ukraine-Russia conflict was a major headline, but now seems to have disappeared from the news cycle. But for one LHS student, Milena Vercellino, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is at the forefront of her mind because of its deeply personal connections to her family. 

“In Ukraine, it’s my grandma, like my mom’s mom, and my three cousins and extended family,” said Vercellino. “My family got really divided when the war first started because one part of my family lives in Siberia [Russia] so they only get information like Russia is going to help Ukraine, to denazify them, to keep them safe.” 

Vercellino is raised by her mother, Iryna Schneider who moved to Nebraska from Ukraine in 2003 and later moved with her daughter to Sioux Falls in 2015. The war in Ukraine has caused strain on the familial relationships, because while she and her daughter are safe in the United States, the rest of her extended family is still in Ukraine. 

“My mom and grandma have gotten into big fights about  [leaving Ukraine] because she just doesn’t want to come here. My mom wants her to be safe and all of my family to be safe, but they don’t want to or they can’t, because there’s no safe way for them to get out,” said Vercellino. 

Vercellino’s extended family that she remains in contact with in Ukraine are her Grandma, from her mother’s side, her three cousins, her aunt and more. Meanwhile, she has additional extended family in Siberia. Vercellino, her mother and their family in Ukraine are no longer in contact with that part of their family.

“We don’t even get to talk to that part of my family anymore because they keep saying Russia’s helping, we’re doing a good thing for you guys. But they’re not, they’re killing our people,” said Vercellino. 

Vercellino’s cousins are all teenagers, with the oldest of them being a 19 year old male. Due to their ages, the cousins are all attending school right now despite the ongoing war. Regular learning is still taking place with significant safety precautions in place. 

“At [my oldest cousin’s] college they have bomb shelters nearby that they had to build, so then when there’s stuff, he has to go and live in that shelter and there’s no service or anything. He stays in there for a while until it’s safe to go out, and then he goes out because they have to just keep living,” said Vercellino.

Her cousin does not even have the option of leaving because he is eligible to be drafted. His family does not want to leave either because it’s their home as well and they do not want to leave without their whole family. Vercellino’s grandma also refuses to leave Ukraine due to the love she holds for her country, despite Schneider’s best attempts. 

“My grandma doesn’t want to come here because that’s her home, her country and she wants to be there. If she dies, she wants to die in her country,” said Vercellino. 

This war may not be the one that the media is focused on at the moment but for Vercellino and Schneider as well as so many others in Sioux Falls and around the world, the Ukrainian-Russian war is a constant worry. As the war in Palestine has started and taken root, it’s overshadowed the war that was already going on. 

“But I feel like since the war started, a lot of people don’t pay attention to it anymore. Like this whole Palestine thing happened and people are like ‘pray for Palestine and all this stuff. Women and children are getting killed,’ but the same thing is still happening in Ukraine and it has been for over a year now, and I feel like people aren’t paying attention to it anymore,” said Vercellino.

Over 9,500 Ukrainian people have died since the invasion started in February of 2022, and over 17,500 Ukrainians have been injured, according to Statistica. Joseph Stalin once wrote “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.” These may just seem like empty numbers to most people, a statistic at best, but upon closer inspection each of these individual numbers was a person with a life, a family and many reasons to live now gone forever. As the nightly news flashes by and the social media feed fills up with stories about Hamas, please think of your classmate, her family and all those who are affected by the war in Ukraine. For information, resources and ways to potentially help click this link

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About the Contributor
Betsy Haft, Staff Writer
Betsy Haft is a junior and a second-year staff writer for the Statesman. When she is not focusing on her grades, Haft participates in LHS tennis and student council. She speaks fluent Spanish because of her enrollment in the Spanish Immersion Program here at LHS. In her free time, you will find Haft hitting the slopes, spending time with friends, in line at Qdoba or Bagel Boy, traveling or reading. Haft’s life goals consist of; petting all dogs, seeing all the Taylor Swift concerts and finding a way to get paid to surf (future pro surfer?).
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