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Exchange student gives insight on war against Ukraine

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"No one wants this war"

Daniil Rusanyuk is a Ukrainian exchange student at Livingston High School. PHOTO BY BRIAN BESCHDaniil Rusanyuk is a Ukrainian exchange student at Livingston High School. PHOTO BY BRIAN BESCHBy Brian Besch
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As the world watches the events in Russia and Ukraine unfold, a local student has his heart and mind in Kyiv while attending his final year of classes at Livingston High School. Daniil Rusanyuk, 17, is a Ukrainian exchange student from the capital city.

“I wanted to be an exchange student,” Daniil said of attending school in Polk County. “I applied for over two years. The first year I applied, but because of Covid, I wasn’t able to go. I applied for the next year, and it happened so fast. I got acceptance in a week. I got accepted and it said school started in a week. I needed to pack my bags and come here.”

Food, traditions and speech were some of the biggest adjustments made upon arrival. Daniil (pronounced Daniel) spent plenty of time learning English as a young child, starting in kindergarten. However, a British version of the language was taught. You may have heard that Texans sound a little different, and he mentioned something about an accent.

School has been a bit different in the States. Students in Ukraine attend classes for 11 grades instead of 12. In Kyiv, the classrooms are in groups of 30 students. Each group attends every class together for all 11 years.

Just like many kids his age, Daniil is into video games, and he was playing online when he first heard of the invasion.

“My friend called me; he’s still now in Kyiv,” Daniil said. “He told me, ‘I woke up and there was bombing.’ He said, ‘I do not understand what is happening.’ It was like 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. He saw something like a gas station blow up. I phoned my parents, and they also just woke up.”

Friends and family knew that Russian President Vladimir Putin had deployed troops at the border, but didn’t think much of it because there have been similar situations since 2014, when Crimea was invaded. Crimea was a destination spot for Daniil’s family, visiting the peninsula Russia now controls each summer.

“It is more in Western Ukraine that some people hated Russians. They called us bad words, but my grandma has a house there (in Crimea), so I used to go there every summer. This summer, I was there in Crimea. I have a lot of friends that are still texting me, so we were friends, and everything was fine. I even still play computer games (with them) and I try to tell them real situations that are happening, because in Russia, it is all propaganda. They will say, ‘We are saving Ukraine.’”

His description of the Kyiv he left is one of an ideal city, with activities that are limited by only the imagination.

“It is a very big city. We have two zoos, but two days ago, the zoo in the center of Kyiv was burned. I saw a video of fires. There are a lot of places and a lot of museums. The center of Kyiv is so beautiful. There are churches that are very important. This summer, a very beautiful glass bridge opened. No one even thought about war, so everyone was building. Our mayor of Kyiv, he was building this beautiful bridge that goes around so you can view all the Dnieper River.

“We have everything in Kyiv. We have a river where you can swim, we have boats and everything you can imagine. You don’t think, ‘Where can I go today?’ You just go out and you will see everything. Over the summer, me and my family decided to go to different sites to see Ukraine. Just next to Kyiv, there are mines, where people dig for resources. Then, they fill them with water when they have done everything. It is so beautiful, like a lake that is very deep. The water is so beautiful with trees around in the forest.”

His parents are from Lviv originally, but moved to Kyiv, where Daniil was born and raised. There are grandparents that still live in Lviv, where, for now, it is a bit more stable.

Daniil was understandably concerned with his parents in Kyiv. Extremely loud gunfire and bombing could be heard from inside their home. At 54 years of age, it is mandatory that his father remains in the country.

“My dad said that he is already too old to go into the Army, because it would be hard for him. He said, ‘I will help how I can.’ He is a builder. He is working with a building company, so he is organizing a fund where he collects money for people who have lost shelter and their houses in the bombing. My dad can’t get out of Ukraine, because there are restrictions if you are from 18-60, you can’t get out of Ukraine.”

In contact with someone every hour, Daniil checks on family and friends. There have been a few stressful moments, like when he couldn’t contact a cousin for a day. She was in the process of escaping Kyiv to reach family in Lviv. On the way, massive traffic delays forced her to sleep two nights in a bunker.

When asked if he believes enough has been done to help Ukraine, Daniil felt focus should be placed on the one responsible for the hardships his country faces.

“It tries to do enough, with all the sanctions on Russia, but it actually doesn’t affect Putin. Its effect is on Russia’s economy, but Putin as dictator, it doesn’t really affect him, so he just continues. Nothing will stop him.”

He said friends, frustrated with waiting for assistance, have joked that NATO is an acronym for No Action, Talk Only.

His godmother had left Kiev, but a camera captured Russian units firing at her house. After the Russians attacked and seized a nuclear power plant, Daniil’s parents decided Friday morning that the city was too dangerous. They left in a vehicle, which will take days with traffic and some of the roads destroyed by the war. The car will serve as both transportation and a bed until they reach Lviv.

Daniil has another grandmother who lives in Italy and the family has decided that if all connections are lost, that is where everyone will meet.

He planned to take part in a protest of the war occurring in Houston over the weekend.

“Neither Russians nor Ukrainians want this war. Russian troops and armies that are attacking us are surrendering, and Ukrainians give them food and hospitals. Our hospitals are full of Russian troops. No one wants this war. Ukraine needs help right now. I want more people to know about what is happening in Ukraine. I want more people to go to this protest, for example. Some help would be good.”

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Former Corrigan-Camden ISD teacher arrested

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Terry CarltonTerry CarltonEnterprise Staff

A former Corrigan-Camden ISD teacher, Terry Marcus Carlton, 83 of Diboll, was arrested Wednesday and charged with improper relationship between educator and student.

“Corrigan-Camden ISD is aware of the recent arrest of former teacher Terry Carlton for alleged improper relationship between educator and student,” C-CISD Superintendent Richard A. Cooper said.

“The safety and protection of our children is our highest priority. Mr. Carlton is no longer employed by the district and the district has been cooperating with law enforcement and Texas Child Protective Services investigations,” Cooper said.

“The district is dedicated to supporting our students and ensuring their well-being and safety. The district will make counseling available for students who request it,” Cooper said.

The investigation is being handled by the Corrigan Police Department and the Texas Range

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Polk County man killed in Silsbee

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Car WreckBy Dannie Oliveaux
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A Polk County man was killed Feb. 24 after he jumped from a truck traveling northbound on U.S. 96, south of the Neches River Bridge.

According to Hardin County Sheriff Mark Davis, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers responded to a report of the body of a white male on U.S. 96 at about 3:30 a.m. Davis said the man was identified as Jeremiah Lloyd Ray, 31, of Livingston.

The sheriff said the man was not the victim of an auto-pedestrian accident. Davis said according to witnesses, the man jumped out from a moving truck after a disturbance.

“There was a disturbance at the location in the 5,000 block of U.S. 96 North and the witness said he jumped from a moving vehicle and was injured when he hit the pavement,” Davis said. “The injuries appeared to cause his death.”

The sheriff said an autopsy was ordered by Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Chris Ingram on Feb. 25. Davis said the driver of the truck and other witnesses provided investigators information on the accident. He added the driver, contrary to rumors, stopped and did not leave the scene.

The sheriff said the truck was moving at a slow rate of speed. “They were leaving the parking lot at the 96 Truck Stop,” he added.

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Winner of the ETxN App Download Contest Announced

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We are excited to announce the winner of our February easttexasnews.com app contest. Everyone who entered downloaded our app from the App Store this past month, sent in a screen shot of the app on their phone, and have been waiting until March 1 for the results. Thank you all so much for trying out our new and improved news app. 

If you have not downloaded it yet, go to your App Store and search for East Texas News. Ours is the pine cone with the initials ETxN. You will be given the option to turn on or off the breaking news notifications. 

Congratulations to the winner of our $1200 getaway prize package. 
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Virtual birding seminar on cranes set for Thursday

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A virtual birding seminar will discuss cranes on March 3 with four leading experts in the field. Photo courtesy Bryan CalkA virtual birding seminar will discuss cranes on March 3 with four leading experts in the field. Photo courtesy Bryan Calk

By Susan Himes
AgriLife Extension

A virtual birding seminar, Up Close with Cranes, will be held March 3 from 6-8:30 p.m.

The cost of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service event is $15, and preregistration is required at https://tx.ag/UpCloseWithCranes. The event is part of the Birding with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension program.

“In the U.S., we have a dichotomy of cranes,” said Maureen Frank, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist, Uvalde. “While whooping cranes are endangered and protected, sandhill cranes are abundant and managed with regulated hunting.”

The webinar will feature speakers who will take participants up close with America’s native cranes and explore their similarities and differences. They also will share new research and ‘behind the gates’ habitat management, said Frank.

“We have four speakers in 2.5 hours, so the pace of the event is meant to be engaging as we consider the two similar yet different species,” said Emily Grant, AgriLife Extension agriculture and natural resources agent for Gillespie County.

Grant said although speakers are coming from around the country, birds bring everyone together and many of the topics discussed will sound familiar to Texas birders.

“This virtual seminar is designed to give us a peek into the world of cranes,” she said.

On the agenda

The seminar speakers are prominent leaders and scientists dedicated to crane research, preservation and management.

Liz Smith, Ph.D., is the North American program director for the International Crane Foundation. She previously served as a research scientist at the Center for Coastal Studies at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi and developed the Texas Whooping Crane Program.

Dave Baasch, Ph.D., is a threatened and endangered species specialist for The Crane Trust. In addition to whooping cranes and sandhill cranes, Baasch has studied interior least terns, piping plovers, deer and elk. He will discuss management implications for the two North American crane species.

Sara Zimorski is a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. She leads the effort to reintroduce and establish a population of whooping cranes in the state after an absence of over 60 years. Previously, Zimorski worked for the International Crane Foundation.

Emily Wells works in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California as the conservation program manager on Staten Island, working with sandhills cranes and other water birds. Her presentation will focus on the importance of working lands for conservation.

The next Birding with Extension event, Birding the Hill Country, is already full, said Frank, but more birding opportunities will be announced later this year. She encourages birders to join the weekly Wednesday Cup Chat at 7:30 a.m. on Facebook, where the team will announce other upcoming events. Past Cup Chat topics can be found on their YouTube channel.

For additional information on upcoming birding events, visit wildlife.tamu.edu/birding/.

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