Every day, Walter Ostrowka checks the news for the latest updates from Ukraine. The Ukrainian North Carolina resident has watched his family’s country be attacked by Russia for over two months. 

But while Ostrowka is concerned about those facing daily attacks, shellings and deaths in Ukraine, he is also concerned about how Americans view the war and other international issues. 

“As Americans, we’re so landlocked to the Americas from the Pacific to Atlantic that we forget about what’s happening in China, what’s happening in India and Pakistan, parts of Africa,” Ostrowka said. “We’re just naive about it. … I want to recommend to college students, they need to be versed in all foreign things happening around the world because the world is a lot smaller now.”

Though the war began in February, Ostrowka said people need to recognize how long the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been going on. Issues such as the Maidan Revolution, a series of deadly protests in Ukraine that led to the removal of the country’s pro-Russian president in 2014, and the annexing of Crimea were only part of the conflict. 

“This has been a conflict for a long, long time, hundreds of years, especially if you take the last 100 years from the Communist takeover of Russia and also Ukraine at that time,” Ostrowka said. “At that time, Russians put pressure on the Ukrainian people, they would prosecute them and execute them. There are hundreds of thousands of lives lost already, even before 1957.”

One way Ostrowka tries to localize international issues is through Ukrainians in the Carolinas, a Ukrainian support network operating since the last time Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. The organization hosts cultural events and raises awareness about conflicts in Ukraine. 

Ukrainians in the Carolinas has always collected donations for the country, but when Russia began its invasion this year, the group started collecting more and shipping them directly overseas to Ukraine and its surrounding European countries for aid. 

Economics professor Vitaliy Strohush, who is from Ukraine, is affiliated with the organization and highlighted its collaboration with Burlington Honda’s supply drive to collect more donations such as clothes, strollers, diapers and flashlights. 

“There are situations when you have a city completely surrounded, and there is no given money to buy basic medicine to help elderly people,” Strohush said. “So we would send that money to targeted volunteers, and they would just use it to buy day-to-day survival items.”

Strohush said another benefit of Ukrainians in the Carolinas is the opportunity to relate to other Ukrainians about the war, even when he feels he is unable to help from the U.S. 

“It’s always easier to talk to somebody … your grief, your tragedy — somebody else has gone through the same thing,” Strohush said. “Yet, I always have this feeling like, ‘What can I do?’”

In order to understand current international issues, Ostrowka encourages people to find ways to contribute to organizations that help Ukrainians. But most importantly, he encourages education about the war. 

“When Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, that became the news of the day. The war in Ukraine took a back page,” Ostrowka said. “I’m afraid social media does that for every person who gets slapped. It’s more important than people dying. We got to research what’s happening around the world and put it on front page news.”