SANDY SPRING, Md. (WDVM) – The Sherwood high school gymnastics team is standing in solidarity with Ukraine.
“In our hearts,” Sherwood gymnastics head coach Gary Peters said. “We just hope that everything turns out ok.”
Sherwood’s gymnastics team has played the Ukrainian national anthem before their meets, displaying a Ukraine flag.
The most senior member of Sherwood’s team, junior exchange student Dariia Skochenko is from Ukraine.
“It means that people care and it is important to me that people know about the situation in my country,” Skochenko said. “They accepted me as an Ambassador of my culture and Ukraine.”
Like any exchange student, Skochenko misses her family, her parents and her six-year-old little brother.
“I miss them a lot, sometimes I’m thinking about our evenings together,” Skochenko told WDVM. “You know playing games or reading books or just talking about everything in the world. It’s really sad that I will not experience this in a long time now.”
Skochenko was supposed to go home in May, but as war rages on at home, she’s applied for temporary protected status, a potential 18-month extended stay in America. If she is expected, Skochenko is not sure if she will stay at Sherwood.
“We’ll see what happens next,” Skochenko said. “We don’t know yet.”
Skochenko is staying with a host family in Sandy Spring, on Friday night’s they have movie nights. Before joining the gymnastics team, on which she competes in vault and recently tried beam for the first time, Skochenko ran cross country in the fall.
Skochenko’s hometown, Hlukhiv, Ukraine, in the eastern part of the country, is just ten miles from the Russian border.
“Our town was bombed during the first day of the war,” Skochenko said. “It’s very difficult to be here at this difficult time, knowing that the family is back there.”
In a time of tragedy, Skochenko has been able to tell her new friends in America her favorite thing about Ukraine.
“You can be whoever you want actually now,” Skochenko said. “It’s a free democratic country.”
Skochenko hopes her message goes beyond Sherwood.
“It’s important for American people and for people all around the world to keep talking about Ukraine,” Skochenko said. “To be aware of what’s going on and trying to help and trying to stop it as soon as possible.”
On Saturday’s, Skochenko volunteers at a local Ukrainian school, she’s also created a GoFundMe, to raise money to help Ukrainian families and soldiers, which can be found here.
Skochenko is waiting for the day she can reunite with her family and give them a big hug.
“I would be so happy, I’d be afraid I’d have a heart attack,” Skochenko said laughing with a huge smile.