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Ukrainian University of Wyoming student continues advocating for her homeland

A bird's eye view of Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kiev, Ukraine
Juan Antonio Segal
Wikimedia Commons
Ukraine's capital city, Kyiv, as pictured before the full-scale invasion last year. UW student Anastasiia Pereverten plans to visit her family in Kyiv this winter break, hoping to see them for just the second time since the fighting started.

As war rages in Ukraine, University of Wyoming student Anastasiia Pereverten has been hard at work half a world away, doing what she can to help her homeland from the United States. This summer, Pereverten went to the nation’s capital, where she met with Senator John Barrasso and others, advocating for continued support to Ukraine. She also interned for a foreign policy think tank, helping to prepare a report on Russia’s genocidal actions in Ukraine, researching conflict-related sexual violence and tallying the financial reparations Russia could owe in the aftermath of its invasion. Pereverten checked in with Wyoming Public Radio’s Jeff Victor about the work she’s been up to.

Editor's Note: This copy has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Jeff Victor: I think I first talked to you a year and a half ago when the war first started. How are you doing now that we're a year and a half later and you're here, you’re so far from home? How are you holding up?

Anastasiia Pereverten: So I think we first talked during the first week of the full scale Russian invasion. Since then, a lot has happened, a lot has changed. And obviously Ukrainian resilience persevered. And Ukrainian Armed Forces repelled so much of the Russian aggression. And I traveled home last winter for the winter break. I'm going home this winter break. I booked my tickets, I'm super excited to go back home, spend time with my family, be in Kyiv. And, you know, just be around Ukrainians. Because in the past year, I came to the realization that it may be a little bit of extra emotional load to be the only Ukrainian in the community. And to be the only one addressing all the questions, all the misinformation.

I would expect people to get more informed as the time was passing. Unfortunately, that did not take place in many cases. And I still find myself, in a lot of cases, just addressing misinformation and trying to put things in places.

Another big shift was I spent the summer in DC. I worked for a think tank, and advanced my advocacy for Ukraine. And that's what I keep on doing. So we've been obviously having a lot of community engagement here in Laramie. I've been working with media outside of Laramie as well. Recently there was material published in "Business Insider" and many other outlets. But I was happy to expand this advocacy to DC, to spend some time there, and actually sense the political discussion around the war, how policymakers are reacting to it, what are the questions, demands, and, you know, key policy factors that we need to be working on. So my summer in DC in this regard was really helpful and insightful.

JV: And I want to ask about all of that. Can you tell me who you were working for and what you were researching?

AP: I had an internship, and actually keep on doing this internship now remotely, for a DC-based policy think tank named New Lines Institute.

The key project that I was a part of was actually related to Ukraine. So when the full scale invasion broke out in February, and we started witnessing the war crimes and the scale of atrocities, the pattern of the damage that Russia was causing, (the) Ukrainian general prosecutor to travel to DC to brief American policymakers on that. And that's when the think tank that I happened to intern for first got in touch with the Office of General Prosecutor and they started working on the big research that analyzed Russia's potential breaching of Geneva Convention and Russia's potential incitement of genocide. And during this summer, when we had more evidence — you know, as Russia was withdrawing and as Ukrainian armed forces were getting Russia out of our land — we witnessed, even in Kherson, we witnessed torture chambers, mass execution of civilian men, abduction of Ukrainian children, mass rape, application of sexual violence as a tactic of the war. So this summer, we published a report that actually discusses the escalating commission of genocide by Russian Federation.

JV: This is obviously really horrifying stuff that you're dealing with. Is that difficult for you, just knowing that all of this is happening in your homeland specifically? Is that difficult to engage with?

AP: It is. Undoubtedly, it is. But what's important to realize is that while we're researching all these topics, looking at them retrospectively, we also know that Russia doesn't slow down in its terrible wrongdoings, right? So even working with the officer of the General Prosecutor, we know that with time on the occupied territories, the scale of sexual violence in regard to Ukrainian women, children and even men is only growing. It just makes me more confident that I have to keep on working on that. And I'm not spearheading, I'm not an author of the report. I'm just a small part of the team. My work was on the outreach. I mean, it is hard to deal with that. It is hard to read about it. But it would be harder to not do that.

JV: While you were in DC, I know you also met with Senator Barrasso. How did that meeting go?

AP: I met with Senator Barrasso back in July. The subject of the meeting was support for Ukraine. Senator Barrasso has been to Ukraine seven times, if I’m not mistaken. He was in Ukraine, interestingly, when Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014. He was there on the ground as it happened. So hearing from him how that went —and how he got back from Ukraine back in 2014 and tried to encourage support for Ukraine, nine years ago, or almost 10 years ago when it just started — that was interesting.

I definitely appreciate all that his office does in support of Ukraine. Especially currently, his office is co-sponsoring the resolution on the condemnation of Russia's kid abduction. So Russia is abducting Ukrainian children. It's a massive mechanism of kidnapping Ukrainian children and transferring them forcibly to Russia. Some of them are being placed into filtration camps, some of them are being placed into re-educational institutions. Their documents are being fabricated, their names are being changed, all with the purpose of making it impossible to get them back into their families. Sometimes Russia even places Ukrainian kids in the orphanages so Russian families adopt those kids.

It's terrifying. The scale of this crime is mounting. So officially, we have around 20,000 names of children who are confirmed to be abducted. But how many kids were abducted, and we didn't know their names, didn’t know any information about them? And currently, there is a resolution in the Senate and House to condemn this, to make it clear for Russia it's going to be accountable for this crime. So Senator Barrasso is co-sponsoring that. I also met with his office just a couple of weeks ago. And his office made it clear for our delegation that it strongly stands with Ukraine, and it will continue support for Ukraine's defense against Russian aggression.

JV: Is there anything else I didn't ask about that you think people should know about?

AP: If I could leave everyone with one thought that would be that the problem is Russia, not Ukraine. Cutting down support for Ukraine is not stopping the war. We can all agree that Russia is the source of the war, the reason the war started, the reason we witnessed all of those international either energy crisis or a food crisis or just security. The reason for all that is Russia.

Russia is the problem. Ukraine is the solution. In all we do, we have to make sure our focus is defeating Russia, not disadvantaging Ukraine.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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