Elena Prusin and her brother Volodymyr
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain

A year after the war in Ukraine began, Elena Prusin hopes that the fighting will end by the summer.

“Some think it might end at the end of the year. Other people say that it might end in summer. Some people say that it can be for two years. So, the opinions are so different, but my hope is summer.”

Prusin has lived in Socorro since 2001, but her hometown is Lviv, Ukraine, one of the largest cities in western Ukraine. She returned from a visit just shy of three months long near the end of last year. The journey was more arduous than normal. With the war ongoing, there are no flights directly into the city. Prusin had to fly into Warsaw, Poland, then take a bus.

Her hometown didn’t seem so different, except for the hourly air-raid sirens. Russia has been bombing Ukrainian infrastructure, and the city does not have consistent electricity or internet access. So, she caught up on her reading with books downloaded onto her Kindle.

“We had power only for a couple of hours, and I lived in my brother’s apartment, and his heating and hot water depends on the electricity.”

Fortunately, winter was not cold this year.

“I would say it’s safe in our home city, and people kind of get used to this alarm alerts. Of course, the bombing, it was something new for us.”

No one was hiding from the air raid sirens though. Most of the bombs are falling outside of the city, damaging infrastructure, a different story from eastern Ukraine, where cities have been destroyed and people have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety.

She’s glad to see the world paying attention to Ukraine, and glad to hear the promises of aid and weapons, but wishes that help would come faster.

Prusin has collected almost $6,000 in donations from friends and coworkers in the Socorro community to help Ukrainian refugees. The informal collection was given to her friend in Sweden, who has been bringing supplies to Ukrainian refugees. She’s been getting warm clothes and other supplies to refugees.

“You know what, it’s hard to imagine. The 21st century, and a war like this. It’s, it’s just unbelievable. When the war first started, I watched the news, CNN, 24/7, and I still could not believe that this was going on. I just, I could not realize. I could not understand, how could it happen in the 21st century?”

Now that she’s returned to New Mexico, Prusin’s brother has come to visit her in Socorro for two months. Although he’s 73, her brother Volodymyr was still working as geologist. The war has halted work at the company he works for.

Prusin’s husband was a historian who focused on Eastern European history. When he passed away four years ago, she planned to relocate to Ukraine. Now it seems unlikely she’ll make the move. Refugees fleeing leveled cities in the eastern region of the country have resettled in Lviv, raising housing costs. Food prices have also tripled, she said.

But Prusin plans to return to Ukraine for another visit in April.

To learn more about Ukrainian culture or get involved in helping support refugees, Prusin recommended attending events by the Ukrainian Americans of New Mexico.