Below is an excerpt from a story that originally appeared in CSU RamWire. Anastasiia Kotsyuba is a Communication Studies major here at CSU.
The normal schedule is by days of the week. Each day will tell Anastasiia Kotsyuba what time tennis practice is, if there is a conditioning session on tap and what classes she will attend.
For the native of Odessa, Ukraine, specific days no longer exist. Just the number.
“It’s the seventh day of war. I’m just counting the days,” Kotsyuba said after Wednesday’s workout. “I don’t know what day it is, I just know it’s the seventh day of war, that it’s been going on for seven days.”
Now it’s nine days. She is 5,900 miles away from her family and friends, which has been hard enough to cope with for the three years she’s been part of the Colorado State women’s tennis team. The distance can be hard, but they tried to close the gap via the phone.
She would talk to her mother, Mariia, and her father, Volodymyr, by voice or text numerous times a week. Now it’s nearly constantly through the day since Ukraine was first attacked by Russia, an offensive which has always been threatened, but one Nastia, as she’s known to her teammates, never really believed would transpire.
Now, it’s all too real.
“I’m terrified. I’m not just scared, I’m terrified,” she said. “Every time I’m picturing something might happen. It’s not like summer and you’re far away. The first day my mom texted me, I was doing my homework, just a normal day, it was 8 p.m. here. And she texted me, ‘I think the war started because I heard explosions.’ I opened the news and Putin had started the war. I was like, wow, it can’t be true. I denied the fact, thought it couldn’t be true, it was something else happening. Then there were more and more pictures on the internet, my friends started texting me, a friend posted a story about a friend of hers who got shot just driving. How my other friend was crossing the border and they were firing from the air. Those are real stories of people I know, and then I look at the pictures and I know it might come at any point.
“I feel helpless. I feel helpless because I’m here, and the only thing I can do is inform them, nothing else. They cannot escape because my parents need to take care of my grandma and granddad. It’s like they’re sitting there waiting for something to happen.”
So, too, is Nastia. And fearing the worst.
What do you say to your friend, your teammate, in this moment?
This has been unchartered territory for the team, very much a new collection of people and experiences. The coaches are in their first year. Most of the players, too. Nastia is one of two returning players on the roster, the other being Tracy Guo.
It is a group which comes from across the globe, but primarily made up of Europeans, young women who understand the politics and history of the area. Sarka Richterova and Radka Buzkova are from the Czech Republic, Matea Mihaljevic from Croatia and Lucia Natal from Spain. Somer Dalla-Bona is from Australia, Sarah Weekley from New Zealand. They were brought together in the fall, but credit head coach Mai-Ly Tran and assistant Taylor Hollander for helping them develop a tight bond in a short amount of time.
Still, it doesn’t mean somebody knows exactly what to do or say.
“It’s hard. No one really knows what to do,” Richterova said. “No one really knows how to support her. It’s just trying to be nice, giving her chocolate, being understanding, trying to bring her thoughts to another topic and just being there for her. It’s trying to be positive always, and being there so she’s not alone.”
Nastia has been asked by people how they can show their support to the people of Ukraine. This is the link she shares with them: https://csura.ms/3II4kOw