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Ukrainian exchange student in Dallas says her country will continue to resist

"Ukrainian people will not give up," Anya Hapotchenko said. "They will stand to the last minute. They will defend their country."

DALLAS — Anya Hapotchenko is an adventurous 19-year-old who speaks three languages and was willing to travel around the world to seek an education in the United States. 

But now the exchange student watches helplessly as friends and family in her native Ukraine are under the threat of a Russian invasion.

"Dear Ukrainian people," she wanted to say in her native tongue. "Be safe. And we're not going to give up without a fight," she said when we met near White Rock Lake.

She has been in the United States since April of last year as an exchange student and college freshman studying at Dallas College Richland Campus, with plans to transfer to Southeastern Oklahoma State University to pursue a major in graphic design. 

But now she is texting and calling her family in the town of Starobilsk as much as the communication situation will allow. Russian troops rolled through her hometown last night. Numerous buildings were destroyed. 

Her brother and her grandmother were not hurt, she says. Meanwhile, she says her parents, whose location she would prefer to keep secret, are fleeing by car to the western side of Ukraine.

"It's been very tense," she said of watching and receiving news reports from her home country. "The situation has been on my mind the whole time."

"I'm worried not only safety of my parents but also our soldiers, the young guys and women and ladies that are serving right now and they're being killed by people just like us," she said of the Russian military.

"The excuse was the he was saving lives, was saving our lives," she said when asked about the motives of Russian President Vladimir Putin. "That's just an excuse to invade. That was not the reason. People did not need to be saved."

Anya shared videos of her home: idyllic vistas and fields of sunflowers. She is frightened by the opposite images of fires and destruction her friends are sending her now.

"Right now it doesn't seem like a dream or something fantastic anymore. It's real and it's here."

But, feeling somewhat helpless here in Dallas, she at least wanted to say this.

"Slava Ukraini," she said. It means "Glory to Ukraine, I stand with Ukraine": the slogan and battle cry again, as it was in the previous Russian invasion in 2014.

"I really believe in our Ukrainian army," she said. "Ukrainian people will not give up. They will stand to the last minute. They will defend their country."

And she prays that the rest of the world will stand up for Ukraine, too.

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