Breaking News
More () »

'It's just devastating to me': UIW student from Belarus to embark on humanitarian mission in Ukraine

Iryna Aniushkevich opposes the Belarusian government's views on the war. Instead, she stands united with her Ukrainian neighbors.

SAN ANTONIO — As Russia’s war on Ukraine intensifies in the eastern part of the country, a University of the Incarnate Word student from Belarus is hoping to touch the lives of those fighting to survive.

“What’s going on right now just created so much adversity in my heart that I couldn’t just stand behind,” said Iryna Aniushkevich.

The devastation began Feb. 24, when Russian military forces went through with what President Vladamir Putin at the time called a “special military operation.”

The invasion in Ukraine has resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 civilians and over 11 million people fleeing other countries as refugees, according to the UN.  

“It’s not just inhumane, it’s brutal and vicious,” Aniushkevich said.

Failed attempts at reaching peace and piling of economic sanctions has not seemed to deter Russia from intensifying the conflict.

Aniushkevich has seen videos of cities destroyed and families going through the hardships of war as they’re left uncertain what the future holds.

“Seeing all this videos that I’ve been seeing through local media, it’s just devastating to me. Just seeing how the kids suffer, how many kids die, how many kids don’t eat,” Aniushkevich said.

The dual Belarusian-American citizen ventured to the U.S. after aspiring to succeed beyond the confines of a country riddled in the political remnants and influence from the Soviet Union.

President Alexander Lukashenko has been in power since 1994 and continues to be a strong Russian ally.

The consequences of voicing opinions on the war could mean jail time in Belarus, which Aniushkevich stressed has her scared for when and if she returns to her home country where her mother, grandmother and other family still lives.

“My country is supporting somewhat Russia by the government, but people are not and I’m not. I’ve always been for democracy,” Aniushkevich said.

Aniushkevich's aunt lives in southern Ukraine while her stepbrother serves in the Ukrainian Navy; she noted she hasn’t heard from him in a couple weeks.

Aniushkevich’s exposure to witnessing and experiencing the freedoms afforded by Italians during a summer program while growing up, reinforced her will to strive for success in the U.S.

From Texas State University in San Marcos to the University of the Incarnate Word, Aniushkevich has shown determination to pursue her dreams.

She will be graduating with a Doctor of Pharmacy from UIW this weekend.

While preparing for commencement, Aniushkevich has also been getting ready for a multi-week humanitarian mission in Ukraine where she will be working alongside the non-profit International Medical Relief.

“It’s just an amazing chance to utilize the skills that I’ve learned through the school plus human skills, plus political skills, which I’m supporting what Ukraine is doing,” Aniushkevich said.

Aniushkevich has demonstrated her passion for helping Ukrainians by attending statewide rallies.

The upcoming humanitarian mission with IMR marks a significant move for a woman who grew up in Russian-influenced Belarus and will now be aiding those on the ground in Ukraine who’ve been impacted by the war.

“I could fight indirectly. I want to be a part of it and that’s the best I can do at this point,” Aniushkevich said.


Before You Leave, Check This Out