Ukrainian Columbia Students Balance School with Fears Back Home

Omose Ighodaro | Tuesday, May 17, 2022


On an early March afternoon, Elizabeth Bordi appeared calm — not very telling of how she truly felt. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Bordi, an undergraduate senior at Columbia University with family members in the southern Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, has been worried.

Bordi moved to the United States from Ukraine with her mother when she was six years-old in hopes of a better life, she said. Now, she’s most concerned about her grandparents back home.

“They’re old and my grandpa is in really, really poor health. He can’t get out. Like physically can not get himself out,” Bordi said. 

As of May, 2022, the United Nations says close to 6 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion. More than 3,000 have been killed and close to 4,000 have been injured.

Mariya Katsman, 24, is a first-year graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). She has brown hair, brown eyes and sat cross-legged on her phone in the SIPA building on March 2. She moved to the United States from Ukraine in 2015, shortly after the initial Russia-Ukraine war – her parents and friends still in Kharkiv, a city in northeast Ukraine.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Katsman called her loved ones every two hours. “I’m at that point in my life where I’m sort of thinking like how do I care about my parents? It’s mainly me confronting them, then them comforting me. I just try to be strong and positive when I talk to them,” Katsman said. 

An email went out to all Columbia University students which mentioned that through Zoom support groups and other resources, Columbia University has made it a priority to support Ukrainian and Russian students during this time. 

On March 2, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, sent an email about the conflict which, in part, read, ​”​We also stand ready to support all members of our community whose lives have been upended by this war, particularly our Ukrainian and Russian students who are facing a bewildering and uncertain road ahead.”


This story is the work of a student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Other news organizations are welcome to publish this story as long as they adhere to these guidelines.