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'It feels like a terrible dream': LSU's Ukrainian students rally support from campus community

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BATON ROUGE - There wasn't an empty seat inside the International Cultural Campus on LSU's campus Friday evening as students, staff and community members rallied around the university's Ukrainian population, hearing more about what led to the ongoing conflict with Russia.

"It feels like a terrible dream, really," LSU freshman and event organizer Daria Antonovskaya said. "It feels like we're on the border of a terrible, world war crisis."

Antonovskaya, who is studying biochemistry, had never been to the U.S. before arriving for school last fall. Now, she's watching her native country be bombed from social media feeds.

"It's very hard to be very far away from the hometown, from the friends, family," Antonovskaya said. "I'm very concerned."

Blue and yellow streamers, signs and flowers signifying the colors of the Ukrainian flag decorated the room where speakers gathered, including LSU professor Daniel Tirone, who focuses on international politics and economics and whose current research focuses on civil conflict.

Other Ukrainian students shared personal reflections from the past eight days since Russia first invaded Ukraine.

"It's been terrible," Oleh Hrushetskyi, an LSU senior from Ukraine, said. "I'm struggling to sleep. I'm waking up every one or two hours. Right after I wake up, I check [the] news, calling my family to make sure everything is fine."

Homemade posters reading "#NoWar," "Praying for Ukraine" and "Peace" dotted the walls, as some Ukrainian students chose to express their feelings through art.

Antonovskaya implored those on campus and elsewhere in Baton Rouge to educate themselves on the conflict, what sparked it, and the consequences of inaction.

When it comes to getting educated on the issues, she says, it's critical to get facts from reliable sources.

"It is important to understand that this war is not just the actual war with weapons, it's an informational war," Antonovskaya said. "I'm just trying to find credible information."

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