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'I'm not scared, I'm just hopeful': Former LSU student-athlete living in Ukraine recounts ongoing invasion

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KYIV, Ukraine - As Anastasiya Burda logged onto a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon to talk about living in what has become a war zone, signs of Russia's aggression towards its neighbor to the west showed.

"We're hiding in the bathroom right now because the airstrike siren went off like 20 minutes ago," Burda, 34, told WBRZ Wednesday.

The shock of war has worn off for Burda and her family, including her two young children, in the week since Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

"They run to the bathroom as soon as they hear sirens," Burda explained. "You don't have to tell them anymore. They just run into the bathroom and sit on the cushions and pillows."

Central Kyiv, Burda says, is relatively safe at the moment. The streets, she adds, are mostly deserted, but explosions coming from the city's outskirts are being more noticeable and frequent.

"I think I heard some explosion going off somewhere, but, I mean, you kind of get used to it," Burda interjected during the Zoom call. "It's unbelievable what a human mind and a human body can get used to."

Burda describes the last week as a constant mood swing, with emotions ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other. Surprisingly, there have been moments of optimism. She notes, however, those moments may be fleeting.

"The whole world will suffer if this will not end," Burda said. "That mad guy, I don't want to even pronounce his last name, in Moscow somewhere in a bunker, he's not going to stop."

After attending LSU, where she played on the women's tennis team, Burda returned to her native Ukraine in 2009. Those she played alongside have made sure to keep in touch with her in recent days.

"The whole former LSU tennis team is cooperating right now, and writing me very nice messages and supporting me, and saying that they are thinking about me," Burda said. "That means lots, and lots, and lots, and lots, and lots."

Burda and her large, extended family are staying put for the time being. She said the first flood of refugees jammed the streets, making any evacuation difficult. Now, she says it's not safe to move, but adds, they will if it's absolutely necessary.

It wouldn't be the first time she's had to flee.

"I left from Donestk in 2014," Burda said. "So, it's like my second time running away from Russians to stay well, to be safe, for kids to be safe, for my husband to be safe, for my family to be safe."

Eight hours ahead of Baton Rouge, a new day of uncertainty has already started for Burda, who says she's no longer scared.

"I was scared for the first three days," Burda recalled. "I was hysterical for the first three days. Right now, I am not scared. I'm just hopeful."


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