Former Westlake exchange student now stuck in Ukraine

Roman Vydro, a Ukraine native who studied in Northeast Ohio more than a decade ago, fled his hometown of Kharkiv to a safe house on the west countryside.

CLEVELAND — It’s been nearly a week to the day since Ukraine was invaded by Russian military forces. Since last Thursday, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians have tried to flee the country amid intensifying attacks. 

One of those civilians is Roman Vydro. He was born and raised in Ukraine, but spent time studying in Westlake back in 2010.

“I’ll never forget my mom calling me at 5 a.m. telling me that the war has started,” he recalled in a conversation with 3News.

Now, Vydro finds himself himself trapped in the wages of war, a war he calls unprovoked and inhumane. 

“There are six of us here in the apartment,” the 27-year-old said of his current bomb-shelter living quarters. “I’m actually talking to you from the bathroom.”

For now, Roman, four animals, and 12 other people are hiding in a safe house on the west countryside of Ukraine after fleeing his hometown of Kharkiv just days ago. 

“We are quite lucky we get to spend an hour a day in bomb shelters,” Vydro said. “These bombings right now, they are targeting residential areas that had no military basis, and it’s just plain terrible.” 

Kharkiv is reportedly one of the hardest-hit cities attacked by Russian forces to date. 

“It turns out that yesterday was just a warm-up,” Vydro said of the bombing campaign, “so I cannot imagine what’s going to happen tomorrow to my city, which is being completely demolished right now by Russia.”

While he tries to keep in touch with loved ones he left behind, Roman says he’s anxious and outraged by what he hears.

“I have reports from my friends of people being killed while they’re getting out of bomb shelters just to get fresh water or just to stand in line for medicine or food,” he lamented.

Vydro adds a lot of people are unable to return home while their cities are being burned down, bombed, and destroyed. 

“I have people seeing death every day now, and these are good people,” he said. “These are people that have a lot to offer. These are artists and musicians and cultural managers and engineers. All of them are going through the worst times of their lives right now in my city.”

Meanwhile, Roman, like thousand of other Ukrainian civilians, wait out this unprecedented war in hiding.

“Right now, I’m surrounded by incredibly angry and courageous people,” he declared.

But while the country’s populace is strong, he says this war will call for more than warm thoughts, donations, or even more troops.

“Please do pray for Ukraine,” he said. “Please be sorry, but instead of having no words, I have two words for you, and those words are ‘Cancel Russia.'”

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