CARY N.C. (WNCN) – For Ukrainian exchange students studying in North Carolina, the end of the school year marks a difficult decision, to stay here or go home to a country under attack.
In just a few weeks, 17-year-old Pavlo Panchuk will leave from Raleigh-Durham International Airport for eastern Europe.
However, he can’t fly directly home to Ukraine and will have to cross the border by bus.
Panchuk said it’s all worth it to see family again.
“I need to be home, I need to be with my parents, I have to be sure that they are fine,” Panchuk said.
For months, Panchuk has been juggling school work at a Wake County High School, all the while getting alerts from back home.
“But I still get notifications like, you have sirens in your home or they are bombing that town or that town,” Panchuk said. “It was really stressful at that time.”
He had the option to stay longer in the United States under a Temporary Protected Status, known as TPS.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates that 59,600 Ukrainians in the U.S. qualify for TPS.
“Over spring break it was decision time between TPS and going home. I chose to go home,” Panchuk said.
He said he came to the decision because he wants help translate for his mother and grandmother should they need to flee to another country or support other citizens in protecting their town in northwest Ukraine.
“If the war is as it is now, I can help with the volunteering, I can help our military in place,” Panchuk said.
His host mom, Laura DeAtkine, said it’s a mixed feeling for both families, here and in Ukraine.
“We would love him to stay, but I am absolutely proud of him for going home,” DeAtkine said. “What makes me very proud is we talked about, you know, how he needs to be there to rebuild the country.”
Despite unknowns, Panchuk won’t let the Russian attack stop him from pursuing his dreams of attending college, hopefully in Lviv.
“I really hope in Lviv, that’s where my dad studied, that’s where my brother studied, where I want to study,” Panchuk said.
People can find more information about applying for TPS on the US Department of Homeland Security website here.