“This Is Not a War; It’s a Genocide,” Ukrainian UW Student Fighting Back in Wyoming
The anger and the desperation in her voice was obvious. With every word she uttered, her voice shook. "This is not a war," she said. "It's a genocide."
When Anastasiia Pereverten arrived at the University of Wyoming in January as an exchange student, she couldn't have known that just a month later her hometown of Kyiv, Ukraine would be under attack from the Russian military.
"It was 8:00 p.m. local time and I was working on my homework," Pereverten told K2 Radio News. "I had an intention to call my mom in an hour when they would be waking up. I opened social media, checking news, and I read that there was a bombing in Kyiv."
At first, Pereverten said she didn't believe it. She checked various websites, double checked them, triple checked them.
"It cannot happen in my city," she said. "But as I double checked Google in different languages, I found out that, firstly, it wasn't fake. And secondly, it happened 20 minutes away from my home."
Pereverten said that she messaged her parents but they didn't reply.
"So I called my parents and, in Kyiv, it was about 5:00 a.m.," she said. "My dad said that he heard the explosion; it was Ukrainian army shutting down a Russian air strike attempt. And that was the moment when the war started."
PBS wrote a timeline of events that led to Russia's attack in Ukraine, writing that "On Feb. 21, Putin formally recognizes the independence of the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic — including territory claimed by separatists but controlled by the Ukrainian armed forces. He orders Russia's military to deploy troops there under the guise of a 'peacekeeping' mission."
But it was not that. It was far from that.
Pereverten stated that Russia unleashed a full-scale war on Ukrainian cities, attacking airports, military bases, and more.
"In two days, simply, they started the genocide of Ukrainian people," she stated. "They began destroying civilian infrastructure. The war started on a Thursday and on Saturday, we saw air strikes on neighborhoods. This morning in Ukraine, they made an air strike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol. They know they cannot win a war in the battle with our army, so they're simply killing children and civilians."
The Guardian wrote that, on Monday, the UN confirmed that it had recorded 406 civilian deaths and 801 injuries in Ukraine. But other sources have stated that the number is much higher.
"For the last two weeks, thousands of Ukrainian people were killed, martyred, including more than 40 children under the age of 10 years old," Pereverten said. "And Russian troops are doing that consciously. They know who they target."
Pereverten referenced the report that Russia had planted landmines along a 'human corridor' that would serve as an escape path for Ukrainians.
"Russian officials assured Ukraine that they would clear paths in its besieged cities of Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv and Sumy to allow civilians to pass safely," the New York Post reported. "But a senior Red Cross official told the BBC on Monday that agency workers trying to use a safe corridor out of Mariupol said the route had been booby-trapped with landmines."
A representative of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the move was 'completely immoral.'
"Dozens of mothers with children are being targeted," Pereverten stated. "Because that's who is trying to flee, mothers and children. They're just trying to save their lives, and they were killed. It's not a war; it's a genocide."
But that doesn't mean Ukrainian people aren't fighting back. President Zelensky, himself, is at the frontlines fighting for his country. Ukrainians are a proud people and they will defend their home with the force of a thousand angry gods.
Pereverten, herself, is doing all she can to lend support to her home. She's not afraid; she's angry. And that anger is manifesting itself in productive ways; ways that can help her country from even thousands of miles away.
"My initial reaction for the beginning of this war was fear for my family," she said. "It's a kind of fear that makes you stumble and puts a ball in your throat so that you cannot say a word. You're just silently waiting. But in the very next moment, you just feel faith and a desperate desire to act."
So, she has acted. Pereverten has organized various demonstrations and rallies on the UW campus. She has compiled lists of websites where people can offer support to Ukraine. She's been spreading as much credible information as she can, calling different news outlets, trying to get her story, Ukraine's story, out there to as many people as she can.
"As a Ukrainian, you just feel that you have no moral right for whining or crying," Pereverten stated. "You only have the obligation to act. With everything that you have on your hands; your energy, your time, your network of people."
And that statement sums up the collective spirit of the Ukrainian people. They're not "whining or crying." They are acting. They are taking up arms. Civilians are being given guns and they are defending their country with everything that they have. Russia started the war but Ukrainians believe they will absolutely finish it.
"Russia will be harshly punished," Pereverten stated. "We will never, ever forget or forgive any Russian for what they've done by their silence, by their compliance, by their conscious murder of Ukrainian people. They will be punished, but the only drawback of punishment is that it has to be executed after the crime, and we need to stop the crime from happening."
That's what Pereverten and the rest of her people are doing, but they can't do it alone. They need America's help. They need NATO's help. Pereverten said she is so thankful that America has issued so many sanctions to Russia, and that President Biden has banned Russian oil. But there's so much more to be done.
"If you want to help Ukraine, and not just save Ukraine but also save the world's democracy and freedom, you have to contact your representative or your government or your local authority with a petition or with a letter," she said. "With my country, we need people to contact the government and ask them to close the skies over Ukraine."
Pereverten said that right now, closing the skies above Ukraine is the best course of action that NATO could take because innocent people are dying.
"It's something that Ukrainians are demanding right now, because we cannot win a genocide," she said. "We will win the war, believe us, but we need to protect the civilians. What NATO is doing right now is so screwed up. They're just expressing their condemnation and saying that they will consider sanctioning more intensely. Sanctions are brilliant, and we are very grateful. But we need more. Something has to be done. It's the 21st century. You cannot let people be murdered because you are afraid of something or you are unwilling to act. It's your obligation."
For Americans who want to help aid the battle in Ukraine, Pereverten provided a list of credible sources of information and resources for donations.
Pereverten also offered instructions on how people can contact their Congressional Representatives, as well as the President of the United States.
Contacting your Congressional Representatives:
1. Go to https://democracy.io/#!/
2. Enter your address where you are registered to vote
3. Choose the representatives you want to contact
4. Insert your message.
5. Fill out your information, and hit send.
Contacting the White House:
6. Go to https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/
7. Select either “Contact the President” or “Contact the Vice President”.
8. Enter your information.
9. Insert your message.
10. Hit send.
Or people can call the White House at 202-456-1111.
All of these are ways that individuals can support what's going on in Ukraine. Some people have even been booking stays at Ukrainian Airbnb's, even though they have no intention of actually staying there. It's just a simple way to give Ukrainians money directly.
Anastasiia Pereverten is the embodiment of every Ukrainian fighting this war right now. She spent a few minutes being sad or being fearful. But then, she wiped her tears and she got to work. While thousands of Ukrainians are fighting a war that was brought to them, Pereverten is fighting that same war in Wyoming. She may not have a gun, but she has her mind, she has her voice, she has resources, and she has the support of two different countries, of two places she can call home.
"No one in Ukraine is doubting the fact that we are winning this war," Pereverten stated, unequivocally. "We just are. We will never, ever, give up our independence, or our territory, or our people."