Alina Bushma had nothing but squash in mind when she woke up on Feb. 24, 2022.
Before the Drexel University women’s squash team headed to Boston last year, Alina woke up in a different world. When she looked at her smartphone to check her social media page, she couldn’t believe her eyes. Thousands of notifications popped up on her screen. Russia had invaded Ukraine, Alina’s home country.
The 22-year-old Drexel senior is a crucial component to the women’s Squash team. Last year, they qualified for the National College Championships in Boston. Alina and her teammates went on to finish second in the country– Drexel’s biggest achievement in squash history ever.
More than a year has passed since Russia invaded Ukraine. Ever since, the war has changed and shaped the lives of many Ukrainian citizens.
“I just panicked when I saw all the messages,” Alina admits. Even though the 22-year-old lives thousands of miles away from Ukraine, the war impacts her directly—her family and friends live in Kyiv.
Now, more than a year after the Russian invasion, Alina’s family still resides in Ukraine due to her grandparents’ health conditions.
Alina sometimes feels guilty that she doesn’t suffer along with her family and friends in Kyiv. “Friends of my friends have already lost their lives,” says Alina, who also knows a lot of people that became soldiers or city guards.
Her family experienced the war first-hand. They spent countless days in bunkers when Russian airplanes launched their offenses over Kyiv. “It’s funny—my parents can now distinguish the different sounds of missiles,” Alina said.
“We have no doubt that we will win,” the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, proclaimed in his speech on the anniversary of the Ukrainian-Russian war.
Repeatedly, Ukrainian military forces have achieved great success on the battlefield. Mine ambushes often leave behind nothing but devastated Russian tanks. Putin’s plan to conquer Ukraine and to overthrow the government went fatally wrong within days of implementation.
But even though the Russian invasion didn’t go according to plan, Ukrainian forces still suffered huge losses on the front line. According to the New York Times, more than 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers have lost their lives battling the war.
Alina last visited Ukraine in 2021, where she spent her winter break with her friends and family in Kyiv.
Even though the tensions between Russia and Ukraine started to grow in 2021, the war still surprised Alina. “Until the end, nobody really believed in it.” Alina continued, “my friends and me thought it would be a joke—I mean, a war in the 21st century? Come on!”
When Alina graduates this summer she plans to stay in the US to pursue a professional squash career. Her outstanding performances this year for Drexel, including a strong fifth place in her last college season, have attracted the interest of professional squash coaches who could potentially reach out to her in the near future.
Even though Alina doesn’t see a future in Ukraine, she plans to visit her home country this summer. The squash athlete has not seen her parents since the war started. Luckily, together with her older sister who lives in Berlin, Alina plans to travel to Kyiv to finally see her family again.