First Days: For this Ukrainian, protests back home are a call to action in the US

This story is a part of a series

First Days

This story is a part of a series

First Days


Lesya Pishchevskaya, from Ukraine, speaks at a rally in December near the Ukrainian consulate in San Francisco. Pishchevskaya, who works in the tech industry, is also part of MaydanSF, a local group supporting opposition-led protests back home.


Courtesy of Lesya Pishcheskaya

I’ve been here in the US for eight-and-a-half years. One funny thing I learned here is that people don’t use “halves” when they say their age, but in Ukraine we say, “I’m 28 and a half.” But here, people laugh when you say that.

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So, I left when I was 19. I got a chance to study here. Well, one thing I noticed is the way people dressed. It was shocking to me in that people would wear pajama-looking clothes to school. In Ukraine, you would have to wear something more formal. Not like a uniform, but at least pants, a blouse.

Any time I said, “I’m Lesya, I’m from Ukraine,” the first question I would get asked is, “Where is Ukraine?” “Is Ukraine part of Russia?” And I would just absolutely hate that question, you know, because Ukraine is not part of Russia. And I would say, “Where’s Canada? Is it part of the United States? Or where’s the US? Is it part of Canada?” So that people could relate and understand how it feels for me when I’m asked whether Ukraine is part of Russia.

Through (the Ukrainian protest) movement for the past four months, I’m proud that it happened because people seem to care about their country, about their national identity.

And during the protest in Kiev, it was very scary for my mom, because one time she was outside and got into the crowd of these street protesters, who were against the movement. She was so scared that she came home and her legs were shaking for two hours after that.

And then, after a couple of weeks, as the movement was progressing, I was just sitting at home and I felt like I could not just sit and passively watch anymore. I said, “Okay, why don’t we organize something here, so that we can show support for Ukrainians in Ukraine?” And within one week, we organized this 500-person demonstration by the Ukrainian consulate in San Francisco. We actually live-streamed the event to the main square in Kiev, and when we sang the anthem, people there sang the anthem, too. So we united with them.

Some people think that we’re anti-Russian. We’re just anti-oligarchs, anti-dictatorship, and we’re all together in this fight.

I feel like going home, and I really felt like going home during the revolution because I am a revolutionary at heart. But at least I’m doing something here and bringing people together around this issue. So, we’ll keep doing that.

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  • Ukraine_FirstDays2.jpg

    Lesya Pishchevskaya dressed in traditional Ukrainian garb. When she first moved to the US she says she was always asked, “Where is Ukraine? Is Ukraine part of Russia?” She says she hated that question. "Ukraine is not part of Russia."


    Courtesy of Lesya Pishchevskaya.

  • Ukraine_FirstDays1.jpg

    Lesya Pishchevskaya, as a child in Ukraine. She moved to the US when she was 19 years old.


    Courtesy of Lesya Pishchevskaya