LYNCHBURG, Va. – Over the past week, the horrific events unfolding in Ukraine have been difficult for millions of people around the world to watch.
It’s even more painful for a Liberty University sophomore, who is witnessing the war through the eyes of his Ukrainian friend.
“You just think that’s a news story. You don’t associate it with a friend of yours or someone you know,” said Liberty University sophomore Colton Hughes. “They could be the person that’s in that story, going through this crisis. I’ve never had that happen before.”
For Hughes, that person in the Russia-Ukraine story is one of his closest friends.
He spent the past year teaching English to a 21-year-old Ukrainian student. She’s being identified as “Sophia” for safety reasons.
“We had our meeting Wednesday like we always do,” he explained. “Then a few hours later, which was very early morning, like 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. for her, she started texting me that there were explosions going off in Kyiv.”
It would be 24 more hours before Colton heard from Sophia again. She told him that her family fled to a rural village in Ukraine and that they were safe.
They haven’t been back to their house since, and Monday, she told Colton she and her family were fleeing once again.
“Even now that they’re in a safer place, they still hear explosions in the distance and gunfire,” Hughes said. “They spend a lot of time in the basement, in the dark, being quiet.”
Sophia updates Colton every day. He said that sometimes he hears things before they hit the news.
When asked what could be done to help those like Sophia, Colton asked for prayers and support.
“Don’t think that you don’t have any impact at all,” he said. “Unless the world stands up and says that this is wrong, what Russia is doing, it will continue.”