A Ukrainian coach at the University of Tulsa shares her experiences with students at TU

TULSA, Okla. — An assistant rowing coach at the University of Tulsa is forced to watch as her home country of Ukraine is invaded by Russian forces that have at times caused her family to flee to a bomb shelter multiple times.

Kateryna Klymenko, the assistant rowing coach for the University of Tulsa’s women’s rowing team, shared her experiences with a group of students and the public during a panel discussion Wednesday at her employer.

“I have an app that tells me when the sirens have gone off, that way if I call my family, and they don’t pick up, I know they’re underground in the bomb shelter,” Kateryna, who goes by Kate, said.

Klymenko said she limits how much TV news she consumes because it can be overwhelming to see her home country under attack by Russian forces, but she does follow the news on her phone. She also tries to call her family daily to check on them. They live in the capitol city of Kyiv.

“I was able to go home last June, and I hope and believe things will calm down soon, and I can go home and see my family again in the future,” she said.

Klymenko said she was proud of her nation’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy for staying and fighting with his citizens and said if she was still in Ukraine, she wouldn’t flee, but she would pick up a weapon and fight.

“If I was still there, I would pick up a gun and fight,” she said. “I voted for Zelenkyy, and he is a good man. There aren’t many leaders in the world who would stay and fight for their people like that.”

Just like Ukrainian leaders, Klymenko pleaded for the U.S. and NATO allies to establish a no-fly zone over the country, but she explained it as a reason to make sure radiation doesn’t escape from from Chernobyl and the Zaporizhzhya facility, the nation’s operating and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

“The U.S. and NATO are afraid of a nuclear bomb, but I want you to think, what happens if they keep shooting at a place like Chernobyl? They’re going to release just as much radiation as one nuclear bomb would. You’re going to risk getting pollution anyways if you do nothing,” she said. “We need them to close the sky.”

In a plea to Americans watching the war on TV and on their phones, Klymenko pleaded for U.S. citizens to do three things: (1) fight Russian propaganda on social media that says Russian soldiers are in Ukraine for a peacekeeping and humanitarian mission, (2) encourage elected officials to do more, and (3) make sure if you are planning to donate to relief efforts that you do so to legitimate organizations that are actually on the ground and established in their efforts to help. She said it is easy to be scammed right now thinking you are helping people.