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University student from Ukraine watches in horror from Winnipeg

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Ukrainian students studying in Manitoba are watching in shock and horror as their country is slowly being destroyed by Russian attacks. Abigail Turner reports – Mar 15, 2022

The University of Manitoba has 37 students from Ukraine. Each one is watching in shock and horror as their country is slowly being destroyed by Russian attacks.

Anna Shypilova came to Winnipeg just over a year ago from the city of Kyiv at just 19 years old. She fears she won’t have a home to return to when the semester ends.

“I don’t really know what would happen to me if I were there,” Shypilova says.

Her Ukrainian hometown sits nearly 8,000 kilometres away from Winnipeg.  While she hasn’t visited for more than a year, her parents continue to reside there.

“They can hear bombs, they can hear all the explosions.”

She never imagined that the country would look nothing like it did before when she returned.

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Anna Shypilova snowboarding in Ukraine before she came to Winnipeg to study more than a year ago. Submitted / Anna Shypilova

“I was born in Kharkiv, which is completely destroyed right now. There is nothing,” she said. “I’ll never be able to go back to my favourite places that are destroyed right now.”

“(My friends) were rushing out of the city because there were shootings,” she says.

One of her friends fleeing the city with family ended up in car crash and did not survive.

Read more: Russia strikes Kyiv apartments as Zelenskyy hints at NATO compromise

While most have fled eastern Ukraine, her parents chose to stay when Russian missiles began to hit the country’s capital.

“My dad is helping the Ukrainian army and my mom is as well. She’s cooking for them.”

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A recent conversation with her parents included her mother saying, “I learned how to disassemble and reassemble a gun today.”

It’s a safety measure on top of many others they’ve taken. Her parents typically take shelter for up to four times per day.

“Usually they have to go to (the parking garage). That’s the only safe place they can go that doesn’t have windows.”

Read more: Russia-Ukraine conflict: Are we in the undertow of an inevitably wider war?

“They only have one floor, they do not have a basement which makes me even more nervous.”

She last saw her parents in December, when they came to visit during her winter break. Now she phones them daily, making sure they’re still alive.

“My parents are trying to show me that everything is fine and not make me worry about them, but I can not, I’m trying not to, but still, it’s so hard.”

Over 630 Ukrainians have died since attacks began on February 24.

While Shypilova can only watch what’s happening through TV and computer screens for now, she’s anxious for the semester to end so she can return to her home country to help fight for freedom.

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The University of Manitoba says their international office has been working directly with impacted students on a case-by-case basis.

In an email to Global News the U of M says they’ve extended fee deadlines and removed late penalties for impacted students.

Those living on campus were also offered payment deferrals and flexible move out dates as well.

Meanwhile the University of Winnipeg says they are waiving application fees for international students coming from Ukraine.

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