Posted 3:42 p.m. Tuesday, March 1, 2022

UWL Alumnus Volodymyr Valkov works for the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

UWL alum working at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, shares his experiences as Russia wages war

As Russian military approached Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv on Tuesday, March 1, a UW-La Crosse alum working for the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv was experiencing the reality of war.

“I am hearing explosions from missile strikes every night, I can't sleep well, and I worry about people getting killed across the country and Ukraine losing its freedom,” wrote Volodymyr Valkov in an email. 

Valkov works on countering Russian aggression while supporting Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic Integration. He spoke to UWL in his private capacity. Currently he is also volunteering to coordinate international assistance to Ukraine and to document Russian crimes in “its unjustified war against Ukraine.” 

He feels motivated to defend Ukraine and secure his homeland's future as an independent and democratic country.  

“Ukrainian people's dreams, respect for human rights and democratic values threaten Russian undemocratic leadership, and they do not recognize Ukraine's right to exist,” he says.  

Valkov came to UWL as a high school exchange student at Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, via the FSA-FLEX Program by the U.S. Department of State, a highly-selective scholarship program.  

Watch Valkov's UWL story

He was attracted to UWL because of the strong reputation of its political science program. On campus, he found the feeling of a “close-knit and caring community.” He liked the diversity, the amazing library, theater productions with UWL student actors, working in the Educational Technologies Department, a visit by writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, and the generous support that he received from UWL to be able to attend internship in Washington D.C. at the Woodrow Wilson Center. 

“I was able to understand the American culture,” he says. “I admire the American people's ability to keep their faith for a better future even in difficult times, which Ukrainians are also very capable of, to unite when the going gets tough, appreciate the importance of trust and integrity.” 

Graduating in December 2007, Valkov eventually moved back to Ukraine. 

He says the Russian invasion of Ukraine did not come as a surprise.  

“I knew Russia would never let Ukraine become strong and independent country without trying to destroy it, and there were multiple reports about the build-up of Russian troops at Ukraine's borders,” he says. 

Among the Ukrainians, he sees a very motivated group of people working to drive Russian forces out. He hopes for an independent, free, democratic, prosperous country — much like the one where he studied abroad. 

Many organizations are collecting donations or supporting Ukraine in other ways. Valkov shared several websites including the Ukrainian Army, Come Back Alive or this list of ways to support.