Teens flee war in Ukraine

Several move to Northbrook, attend Glenbrook North


Freshman Andriana Kavchuk (left) and junior Alina Belei fled Ukraine last fall. Belei left with her mom, and Kavchuk stayed in an underground bomb shelter for hours after the first night of the Russian invasion. Photo by Abby Shapiro

On the first day Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, junior Alina Belei woke up to the sound of airplanes flying overhead.                            

“I went to a room with my parents and said the war started because I saw that in the news,” said Belei. “After a couple of minutes, I heard bombs. I heard rockets.”     

Belei is from Ivano-Frankivsk, a city in western Ukraine. For Belei, the scariest moment while living there was when she heard her house and the ground shake. She did not understand what happened until she realized a rocket had flown past her house.  

Although that rocket did not harm Belei or her family, her cousin’s husband was killed by another rocket last May. While fighting on the warfront, a little piece of the rocket hit his neck.     

When Belei’s mom told her what happened, she was in shock.   

“My eyes literally [went] black,” said Belei. “And, ‘What? How?’ I was with him … one day [before] he went to the war and he’s like, ‘Everything will be okay, don’t worry. I come back.’”           

Belei flew out of Poland and came to Northbrook with her mom in September, leaving her dad and 25-year-old sister behind. When saying goodbye to them, she remembers crying. Her biggest worry coming to Northbrook was leaving her friends, part of her family and her home in Ukraine.         

Since the start of the invasion, well over 20,000 Ukrainians have come to Illinois, said Susan Sperry, executive director for World Relief Chicagoland.

“Here in Illinois, we’re actually the second-largest receiving state in the country to welcome Ukrainians,” said Sperry. “So, the numbers continue to be quite large … of people who are seeking safety here in Illinois and specifically here in the Chicagoland area.”       

Freshman Andriana Kavchuk also came from Ukraine to Northbrook this past fall. 

After hearing a siren on the first night of the invasion, Kavchuk and her family fled to a crowded, underground bomb shelter. She stayed there for hours, confused and unable to sleep.    

“It was so cold and so scary because you didn’t know what happened,” Kavchuk said. 

Kavchuk is from Ternopil, a city in western Ukraine. She fled with her family to Poland before coming to Northbrook. While staying there, she was glad to be in a safe country, but it was hard for her to leave her cat behind in Ukraine. She cried all day.

“He’s still my close friend, and I really miss him,” Kavchuk said.  

Despite the challenges Belei and Kavchuk face, they like going to school at Glenbrook North.

“I like it [in Northbrook],” said Belei. “It’s nice. New people. New friends. New country. Everything is new.”  

According to Kavchuk, leaving her home country has been hard, physically and mentally. 

“I like my life in Ukraine, and I want to [go] back, but I can’t now,” said Kavchuk. “So, my life was really cool, because I have a lot of friends in Ukraine. … When I was in Ukraine, I could go out with my friends. So, it was so nice, and I miss my friends, my city.”