Markiyan Uruskyy’s journey to America after Russia’s invasion on Ukraine

Julianne Macaspac, Class of 2025

“I just woke up and heard sirens,” 16-year-old Markiyan Uruskyy worriedly depicted. Ukraine –a home for many that represented wisdom and peace– dismissed the rumors that would soon be real. Ukrainians could not fathom the news that had spread throughout their country. Markiyan’s life shifted tremendously after the first bombs from Russia landed in his hometown. However, in light of a disastrous event, Markiyan found hope through the endless opportunities offered in the United States that were limited in Ukraine. 

The ongoing century dispute between Russia and Ukraine worsened after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to take over the country. Vast occurrences happened in 2014 when Russia overtook Crimea, part of southern Ukraine. Ukrainians stood against Russia for their independence for over seven years, until Russia tried to fully invade Ukraine to become one country. Around eight million Ukrainians and their families, including the Uruskyy’s, quickly fled Ukraine while they heard sirens flowing through a now dangerous country. Several Ukrainians were not permitted to leave and were recruited to serve their land.

February 24th, 2022, marked the first day of the war against Russia. Markiyan’s parents made the sudden decision for their family to leave Ukraine and move to Poland for safety. He was leaving behind a place he had known his whole life. A place that included his family and friends. A place he knew as home.

When Markiyan and his family arrived at the Ukrainian border, they encountered an endless queue of people leaving in a rush. Lines that would run on for three days. The miles of cars were near sources of food, however, the supply would run out in just two days. He endured three days of sleepless nights with his anxious family in the tight car. When his family was almost on the verge of safety, they heard the news that could drastically change their life.

“…Men aren’t allowed to leave Ukraine if they’re older than 18.” Markiyan’s father was able to leave because he had more than three children and men with three children under the age of 18 could leave. However, Markiyan’s older brother was over the age of 18. The notion of his brother almost being recruited to join the war was far scarier than leaving the place he knew as his home. “…We were at the border… and the military didn’t see my brother. They were exhausted and didn’t see he was 21, so they allowed us to leave Ukraine,” Markiyan recalled.

After a month of living in Poland, Markiyan and his family immigrated to the United States after the Mexico-United States border opened. Ukrainian refugees were allowed to enter the United States through Mexico. Before the war, Markiyan’s father planned to move their family to the United States so his kids could obtain more opportunities in life. However, the invasion of Russia delayed their plans to move. 

Following their immigration to the United States, Markiyan received several opportunities to explore his desires in education and sports, unlike his school in Ukraine. West Park offered more classes that Markiyan was interested in and sports teams he could join. His school in Ukraine limited these resources and freedom because they were more strict when it came to education and supporting school sports.

“In Ukraine, I did not have any motivation to learn or study so I was bored in school, and something I liked I couldn’t take a class for,” Markiyan explained.

Ukrainian schools were focused on educating their students about programming, a career where people can make a life for themselves and thrive for their families in Ukraine. However, after moving to America, Markiyan realized that, “…it [America] is much more rewarding than in Ukraine… more opportunities, different people, they understand you if you don’t speak English… kind people.” 

West Park’s respectable community filled with warmhearted students welcomed Markiyan to the Water Polo team. Having a sports team to join at school was different, “…because in Ukraine we don’t have school teams because they are not supported. You are looking for your own team and just playing for fun,” Markiyan said.

Sophomore and Varsity Water Polo Team member, David Vetlyanskyy, mentioned how Markiyan is a hard worker who tried his best when it came to Water Polo. He filled the team with laughter, Vetlyanskyy said.

Markiyan’s interest in sports grew after his experiences with Water Polo and he is now excited to join the soccer and volleyball teams for the upcoming seasons. 

In the future, Markiyan hopes to open a family food business with his brother. “Really good Ukrainian fast food because in Ukraine they have this fast food, but they don’t have it in America, which was a big shock for us,” Markiyan mentioned.

Markiyan is cautious about his future and has a backup plan if the food business does not work with his brother. Therefore, for provisional measures, Markiyan will major in Programming because his end goal in life is to be financially stable. 

English Language Development teacher, Elizabeth Lloyd summarized Markiyan’s journey to achieve his future goals. Her observations about Markiyan’s actions in class helped her determine Markiyan as a person and his values in life. “He is focused on his grades and works hard to be successful,” Lloyd stated. “He really wants to go to college.”

Markiyan withstood challenges that others wouldn’t be able to comprehend. From experiencing a glimpse of war to moving to a new country across the world, he managed to adapt to different cultural lifestyles. He learned that home was not a place, however, found within his family. Markiyan continues to build a thriving life based on the opportunities and resources offered to him upon his arrival in America.