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A Ukrainian exchange student in Colorado is speaking out about what it’s like to be in the U.S. and away from his family during the Russia-Ukraine war.
Ivan Kozlov, 16, is from Brovary, Ukraine, but has been in Pueblo West, Colorado, since August for a year-long student exchange program at Pueblo West High School. Meanwhile, his parents and 10-year-old sister remain in Ukraine.
Kozlov told Fox News Digital what his experience has been since Russia invaded Ukraine and how he’s reacting to the war.
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Kozlov said that despite the 9-hour time difference between Pueblo West and Brovary, he calls his mom when he can and texts her every day to check in on his family.
Kozlov’s dad volunteered to fight in the Ukrainian army; due to safety reasons, the father isn’t able to share details with his family about where he is exactly.
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Kozlov said his dad recently texted their family chat to let them know he’s OK.
Kozlov said his mom and sister, meanwhile, are “relatively” safe. “As much as they can be right now,” he added.
Despite the war, Kozlov said his family seems encouraged by how the Ukrainian army is doing.
“What I’m hearing is that they are really optimistic about what’s going on … We believe that we will win the war,” Kozlov told Fox News Digital.
“Ukrainians are putting up a really good fight.”
“And they think that it’s really important to focus on that right now,” he added.
“Everybody is focusing on all the negativity that is going on there,” he went on. “And of course, it’s true. War is not pretty. But keeping optimistic and following the news about Ukrainian military achievements really helps.”
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Focusing on those achievements is the way that Kozlov stays positive right now — even though he’s far away from his home, his family and the terrible things that are happening in his country.
Kozlov said he’s constantly checking Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense Facebook page, the Facebook page of the Office of the President of Ukraine, as well as other official sources to find out what’s happening back home.
“What I’m seeing is that they are really doing a good job,” he said.
“Ukrainians are heroic people.”
“Even though — I mean, we are fighting the second-largest army in the world. So it would be weird if it would be easy. It’s not easy. People are dying. But Ukrainians are doing really well in terms of defending” the country, he said.
“Ukrainians are putting up a really good fight.”
‘Outstanding young man’
Ethan Hall, Kozlov’s host dad in Pueblo West, told Fox News Digital that when Russia invaded Ukraine, Kozlov was “distraught” by the news.
Hall said that since then, he has had “very open conversations” with Kozlov about Ukraine.
“He is a very resilient young man,” Hall said. “He shows some very admirable leadership qualities.”
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“I’m proud of him, seeing what he’s doing,” Hall said. “But I feel like I am just the last little guidance for him. His parents,” plus the young man himself, said Hall, “have molded him into a very, very outstanding young man.”
Burnham Whittington is Kozlov’s English teacher at Pueblo West High School. Whittington told Fox News Digital that Kozlov “does everything well” and “channels most of his emotion into action and energy to make change.”
“Ivan is diligent and motivated and loves to think,” Whittington said. “He is possibly the best student in my English class even though it is his third language.”
Whittington added, “Ivan is the type of person the world has too few of. Having seen him in these times, I know that he will always be making this world a better place.”
‘So many people are defending their streets’
Kozlov’s family is still trying to help Ukraine amid war on their own soil.
While his dad is fighting in the Ukrainian army, Kozlov’s mom and sister are making military nets and are cooking food for people who have lost their homes and shelter.
“I’m proud to be Ukrainian. I’m proud of my nation and I’m proud of Ukrainian people.”
“They are trying to help the Ukrainian army as much as they can,” Kozlov said.
“And they are not alone,” he added. “So many people are defending their streets and they are succeeding.”
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Living thousands of miles from his native land, Kozlov is doing his part, too.
He brought in almost $9,000 in a bake sale fundraiser at his high school. The funds will be going to the Ukrainian Red Cross and Razom for Ukraine.
Kozlov said he felt it was important for him to address the issue of closing the airspace over Ukraine.
“Ukraine really, really requires NATO to close the airspace over Ukraine,” he said. “It’s crucial for the safety of civilian people in Ukraine, because Russia has been shelling not only military bases, they have been attacking civilian people.”
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“Children are dying,” he added. “It’s not only about military anymore. Regular people are suffering, too. And this is one of the steps that our international allies, that NATO, can take to help Ukraine to stop the war.”
He also encouraged Americans who support Ukraine to donate to places like the Red Cross, UNICEF and the Ukrainian army.
“All of those organizations are really making a difference in Ukraine,” Kozlov said. “And if Americans could support them, they could contribute to the effort. That’s extremely important and it’s extremely needed.”
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Kozlov said the invasion of Ukraine came as a surprise to him, but he’s proud of his fellow Ukrainians who are defending their home.
“It’s not something that I would think would happen to my country, but it’s not really about me or my family,” Kozlov said.
“Because it involves all the Ukrainians and Ukrainians are heroic people.”
“I’m proud to be Ukrainian,” he added. “I’m proud of my nation and I’m proud of [the] Ukrainian people. We’re doing everything we can to stop the war.”