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Student Dima Sholom sits at table looking out a window

Caught in the Crossfire: OSU sophomore keeps mind on birthplace of Ukraine and family stuck in warzone

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Media Contact: Kirsi McDowell | Senior Communications Specialist | 405-744-9347 |

Dmytro Sholom would sometimes sit in class last semester wondering if a missile was going to hit his relatives’ home.

Over winter break, he went back to his birthplace of Ukraine, a place he said isn’t too different from the United States.

Two months later, the country was a war-torn wreck following a Russian invasion. It was a major escalation of hostilities that began back in 2014.

Dmytro "Dima" SholomSholom, who goes by Dima, said he couldn’t believe all the news he was seeing, with every update since that fateful day of Feb. 24 keeping him awake at night.

“The buildings I saw and walked past in January are now destroyed and turned to rubble and the cars have been replaced with tanks,” Sholom said. “I’ve seen pictures of the streets and remember walking down them accompanied by hundreds of people and now there is no one.”

Sholom was born in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, before moving to Stillwater when he was 6. His father had started a job at Oklahoma State University and since then, life had seemed pretty normal for Sholom.

He played soccer and video games, watched basketball and hung out with his friends. While attending Stillwater High School, Sholom decided he would attend OSU so he could stay close to home.

“OSU is exactly how I’ve wanted it to be so far,” said Sholom, who is currently a sophomore studying secondary education with the goal of becoming a high school teacher.

Sholom enjoyed his freshman year at OSU. He noted how friendly the people were and that he really loved going to the Student Union because there were so many things to do. 

When he went to go visit family back in Ukraine, nothing seemed out of the ordinary to him. However, Kyiv became one of several Ukrainian cities the Russian forces decimated when they invaded.

Sholom said his dad’s side of the family is still in Kyiv and were not able to leave the capital city because they lacked the resources to be able to evacuate.

“I kept in touch as best as I could and my family was stuck waiting to see if there was anywhere for them to go,” Sholom said. “Hearing the sirens was scary at first, but eventually those just became background noise on our phone calls.”

It was a difficult semester for Sholom as he tried to stay up to date on what was happening in his birth country. His phone was bombarded with constant notifications. His grades and social life suffered. He quit doing things he loved like watching sports, losing interest when his family was thousands of miles away wondering if a missile was going to hit their home.

“I received news updates, texts in my family group chat and pretty much everything you could think of throughout the day when I was still attending classes and taking tests,” Sholom said. 

Despite the distractions, Sholom maintained his status as an honors student and was awarded the Ambassador’s Choice Freshman Award from the College of Education and Human Sciences. 

Ukraine is still battling Russia, but Sholom said he hopes for a peaceful resolution and wants people to come to his home country to help rebuild and would like to see Ukrainians offer help if this ever happens to another country.

“Foreign nations have seen our patriotism and have helped us because of how proud we are and that is what I want to take from this situation,” Sholom said. “I want people to be supportive of their country in times like this.”

Story By: Katie Lacey | ASPIRE Magazine

Photos By: Kelly Kerr and Courtesy of Dmytro Sholom

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