By Kylie Brunelli
Russia began bombing Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. A couple days before, Dmytro (Dima) Bieliaiev and his family packed up their bags and left the city. But they didn’t know where to go, and they turned around. They thought more time would allow for a better plan. As a result, they were stuck in Kyiv when the bombs detonated.
All the rooms were sealed off with blackout shades. There was no sound or light. It didn’t matter if it was day or night. Everything bled together into a lull of sleep and checking the news. Tanks and armies rumbled by, but everything else remained muted and repressed.
After the third day, it was better. Everyone went outside, and shops opened up. Most importantly, there was fresh air! Three weeks later, they left their family, friends, and possessions behind, and they moved to a rural Ukrainian town. A couple months later, they trekked to Poland. Dima went to school there- despite the fact that he didn’t know any Polish. About fifty other Ukranians attended the school. He and the others “came to lessons and just nodded” along, even though they were absolutely oblivious and did not understand a thing!
After several months in Poland, Dima and his family moved to Scotland. Head of School Nikki Daniels offered Dima a spot at Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville, and he moved here. Although Ukranians are drafted to fight, his mother has a medical condition, leaving his parents exempt from conscription. They currently reside there.
Everyone at Monte Vista heartily welcomed Dima and the other Ukranians to the school. But Dima has relocated enough to the point that everything seems temporary. Despite the fact that he plans to stay at Monte Vista for the rest of high school, he feels like he needs “to move again.” As a result, he hasn’t attempted to create deep relationships with other students yet. Nevertheless, he is friendly and pleasant to others.
If he returned to Ukraine, he would be drafted into the military next year. Most Ukranians who stayed in the country have financial issues. His grandparents are still in Ukraine, and they are on the front lines and in a lot of danger right now. Other friends haven’t left, and they are attempting to have normal lives in a war-torn country.
This knowledge has encouraged Dima to work as hard as he possibly can to stay in America and deserve his scholarship among the chosen two other Ukrainian boarding students. He noted, “I want to maximize my studying, I want to make my family sleep better. I want them to forget everything that has happened.” He also wants to take advantage of the numerous activities Monte Vista offers, including basketball, guitar, choir and other programs. He said, “I studied in Ukraine good. I want to study here better.”
Luckily, unlike his experience in Poland, Dima is fluent in English.
Notably, Dima wants to put his past behind him. He believes that he isn’t destroyed by the war because millions of others underwent it with him. He remarked, “I am a normal person. I’m not so strange and I’m not so destroyed by war. I’m not so different- I’m the same- and I want to study and be a normal person here.”