[protest sound fades in]
INTRODUCTION: Having lived in Ukraine for almost her entire life as the daughter of missionaries, HU junior Becca Perhai reacts to anxiety and uncertainty as her home country hangs on the verge of collapse. Living a life of two worlds is hard enough, but when one of those worlds is threatened with violence, the stress can be overwhelming. What is it like to have your friends and family in danger and be stuck thousands of miles away? Thommy Brown has the story of how Perhai continues to live life here at Huntington University while her home faces war.
THOMMY BROWN: Protesters lead a demonstration in Maidan, Ukraine, the hometown of Becca Perhai [protest sound fades out]. She attempts to remain collected, but as her home country of Ukraine begins to crumble, her emotions follow suit.
BECCA PERHAI: I don’t think I’ve really like processed it completely yet just because I was there two months ago and went downtown where all the fighting actually happened.
BROWN: Perhai explained how everything seemed pretty ordinary. There were protests, but they were pretty peaceful.
PERHAI: It’s just really unreal and kind of a surreal feeling of realizing that same place that I was walking and the same place that I would go to to buy stuff, to go to the mall, to hang out with friends was a battlefield of sorts and over a hundred people died—a place where I hung out and, you know, called my home.
BROWN: Perhai may have friends here at HU, but what about her friends back in Ukraine?
PERHAI: I have a really good friend Yana who her brother is actually in the military right now.
BROWN: Ukraine has been calling all forces to their army in order to prepare for war. Russia recently invaded Crimea, the southern-most tip of Ukraine, on the premise that it needed to protect the ethnic Russians that live there. Russian troops have ordered the Ukrainian troops to stand down, but Ukraine remains non-compliant. This could lead to military action on both sides.
PERHAI: I’m just praying a lot a lot. Those are people that I know. That’s one of my closest friend’s brother who’s there fighting.
BROWN: Perhai’s family has been living in Ukraine while she is here in the United States getting her education, but some recent, unexpected news forced them to follow their daughter to the states.
PERHAI: My grandma, she had a stroke about, well about week ago or two, and so when it first happened it looked like she was only gonna last another week and so my dad was gonna be the only one who was gonna come back to see her.
BROWN: But the mission Perhai’s family works with advised against separating the family, stating that it would be dangerous.
PERHAI: They literally within an hour bought the tickets and were driving to the airport. So, I had no idea and I always call them on Sunday. So on Sunday I called them and nobody was home and came to find out that they were in the air.
BROWN: Perhai’s family arrived here last Monday February 24th. She also talks about her mom who teaches at a school in Ukraine.
PERHAI: They had to cancel school a lot of times because of the fighting and they didn’t want anyone to travel through downtown area—didn’t want them to be close to, you know, where the police were shooting.
BROWN: As a person of two worlds, Perhai feels attracted to both going to school in America and having her home in Ukraine.
PERHAI: I’m not going to lie, it’s been super stressful—takes up a lot of my attention. Yeah, it was really hard to focus.
BROWN: Perhai admits that she is happy to have her family in the states and away from danger, yet she feels torn over the matter. She understands that her family is needed over in Ukraine.
PERHAI: Americans can have this escape. They have America, this safe haven where they can just run off to, but what about the Ukrainians? They’re stuck there and their people are fighting and—I don’t know. Selfishly I want my family to be here but then I also know that they’re needed most right now to be in Ukraine to preach to the people because more than anything the people need to realize they need Jesus.
BROWN: A common saying over in Ukraine is “slava Ukrayini” which means “Glory to Ukraine,” but Perhai’s Russian teacher has a different opinion on how the Ukrainians should be praising.
PERHAI: I was talking to my Russian teacher when I was back this Christmas and she said, ‘No, slava bohu’ which means glory to God and she basically was saying that these people, they have so much pride in their country but they need to realize that, you know, that that’s fleeting. It’s going to fail if it’s built, their foundation is built on a country and nationalism—that it needs to be built on, on Jesus. God knows he can use this situation to, you know, capture the heart of so many people who have lost complete hope.
BROWN: Although she is facing lots of challenge and doesn’t completely understand why these things are happening, Perhai finds her resolve in something she knows she can trust.
PERHAI: Luckily, it was more of a “I give up God, you need to take control” rather than a turning away, “I’m mad at you.” But I think through it all I have been able to see a tiny glimpse of God’s sovereignty and just coming to that, that place where I realize that, like, we are never going to understand what the heck he is doing and why he allows these things to happen and we are never going to have control and that kills me because I want control so bad [laughs].
BROWN: Perhai spoke of a prayer tent in downtown Maidan that her father goes to frequently to pray for people. She explains how many of the people there are going to receive prayer. Many of them are even coming to Christ.
PERHAI: [music fades in] God is in control and he has this beautiful plan that we are never going to understand [laughs].
BROWN: This Thommy Brown reporting for the Huntingtonian.
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