First-year business administration student Macha Tacquet (18) had a macro-economics exam two weeks ago. She had studied for it, but things didn’t go as planned. “I just kept scrolling on my phone. I felt so far away from my family; so afraid and useless.”
Macha has a Ukrainian mother and a French father. She grew up in Odessa, but following her parents’ divorce relocated to Greece with her mother in 2014, where her family has a marina. Her father stayed living in Ukraine, as did her grandparents and cousins.
She feels a strong bond with the country she grew up in: “If this had happened in the time that we left it would have been a totally different story. The people’s whole mentality has changed since then. I didn’t identify myself as Ukrainian during the occupation of Crimea and the war in the east, but Putin’s recent invasion has changed everything. Even Ukrainians who used to make public pro-Russian statements are now fighting for Zelensky. For the first time, the mood in the country is united. I now feel completely Ukrainian.”
Macha was terrified a week ago, as she had absolutely no idea what would happen to her father. “My father was afraid the Russians would kidnap him,” she stated.
‘The people that support this regime and this war are evil’
For EUR student Polina these are complicated times. She hates the invasion of Ukraine and…
Odessa’s last vet
Macha’s father was the last remaining vet in Odessa. She sighed: “Employees from the French consulate in the city kept calling him every day, but he refused to leave.”
According to rumours EM is unable to verify, the Russians want to arrest the remaining EU citizens in Ukraine. These citizens were to become part of a strategic plan, Macha explained: “Although there were no good sources for this, there were rumours that the Russians may use EU citizens as a pretext to further escalate the conflict. Putin could then claim that EU member states are interfering in the combat.”
Her father finally agreed to leave a week ago. He understood that it had become too dangerous for him in Odessa. If he hadn’t agreed, France would not have been able to do anything for him. He fled to Greece. Saddened, she explained: “He had to leave his practice. He gave away the homeless animals to anyone who would care for them and took a last trip around the city he’d lived in for fourteen years.” Her father confided in Macha that he thought he would never see his city as it was when he left.
Although she feels sorry for her father, she acknowledges that: “Animals hardly matter when people are being mowed down randomly on the streets.” That’s exactly what her grandmother experienced, she explained. “My grandmother went to protest on the streets of Kherson, a city in the southeast. All around her, people were being shot at by Russian soldiers.”
Her grandparents’ city has now been seized by Russian troops. Is her grandmother worried? She smiled: “No. What she told me is that it can’t be worse than the collapse of the Soviet Union, which she also experienced. She just keeps on cheerfully singing old Ukrainian folk songs.”
‘If you don’t speak out against the war, you’re agreeing to it’
What is it like for Ukrainian students to have to live through a war? What does it mean…
Macha really wants to help Ukrainians who are in a worse position than she is. A friend called her recently. “I gave her family of five shelter in our family house in France, so they didn’t have to stay in a mass shelter in Poland.”
She’s also helping to set up an all-Ukrainian student association and the international student platform Save Ukraine, which helps send food and emergency supplies. But she’s also fact-checking Russian and Ukrainian information about the war.