BERKELEY (KPIX) - The Fourth of July holiday pulls at the hopes and struggles of Ukainians. A Fulbright scholar visiting from Ukraine with her family planned to return home this month after celebrating Independence Day in the U.S., but now plans to stay another year, grateful for a safe place to live while her home country remains at war.
"These four plus months have really been devastating for me and my family, it's so difficult," said Nataliia Goshylyk, a visiting professor at Berkeley through the Fulbright Scholar program. "It's all over Ukraine and so many people are suffering, your friends and your relatives, they are all suffering."
Goshylyk has been studying how sustainability is discussed on social media and enjoyed living in the Bay Area to focus in on this topic for the past year. She lives with her husband and two children, who were set to return to Ukraine this week after visiting Washington, D.C. to see Independence Day celebrations. These plans were made before the war began. Now, the family will now remain in California because Goshylyk earned a new teaching opportunity at Berkeley for another year.
"That might have been a coincidence you might say but at the same time I know that I've been working hard to get here on Fulbright," she told KPIX 5. "I'm still processing that I guess. I'm still trying to understand where am I, and why is this happening."
Using her time in the U.S. to embrace the country's culture and learn from those around her, Goshylyk has also stayed active in the Ukranian community. Her family has attended rallies against the Russian invasion of her home country. Outside of her work at the university, she has also spoken on panels to help educate Americans about Ukraine and its culture.
"The 21st century is not the century where everyone can sit back and relax," Goshylyk said. "We have to be united and we have to understand our common ground."
She appreciates the desire among Americans to learn about Ukraine. She hopes the current conflict in her home and the challenges toward democracy domestically push everyone to think critically about how to maintain freedom and not to take it for granted.
"What the words 'the land of the free' and 'the home of the brave,' what do they mean to you specifically," she asked. "That's not the time to sit back and relax and we have to work, we have to take action."
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