ST. LOUIS — Friday marked one year since Russia first invaded Ukraine. In the last year, the greater St. Louis area has welcomed hundreds of refugees.
“When I woke up today in the morning, I’m just realizing I didn’t see my relatives for one year," she said.
Viktoriia Nozdrachova has spent the last seven months as a college student in St. Louis for the first time.
“I miss them," she said.
It’s also the longest she’s ever gone without seeing her parents.
“My father is a military man, and my mother is a nurse in the hospital," she said.
She and her sister live with a sponsor family in St. Louis, but their ties to home remain as strong as ever.
“Today we’re trying to remember all those people, all those heroes, we’re trying to protect our country," she said.
Ukrainians in St. Louis gathered under the Gateway Arch for this anniversary. They made signs, sang their country’s anthem and set high hopes that they’ll be able to return home soon.
“We want the world to be aware that the war in Ukraine is still going," Tetiana Mouzi said.
She came to St. Louis from Ukraine almost 20 years ago.
Now, she’s helping others get the same opportunity.
“We are here to commemorate and hopefully not to celebrate the second anniversary," Mouzi said.
Organizations like the International Institute are on the same mission.
“The folks that were driven from their home because of conflict should always be able to find a place of safety and a place that welcomes them," Senior Vice President of Talent Development and Advocacy Blake Hamilton said.
He said the organization has serviced 327 Ukrainians since March of last year.
“This is a long standing-tradition in St. Louis to welcome individuals facing persecution or fleeing war," Hamilton said. "This is just the latest chapter.”
As the war continues, Nozdrachova said she’s fighting too: for the day she can finally go home.
“After all these terrible things going on in my country, I will return home. It’s my main goal," she said.
The International Institute also said there have been at least 750 sponsorship applicants submitted in the five-county area of St. Louis since last March.
This data includes St. Louis, and St. Louis, St. Charles, Lincoln, and Jefferson counties.