Salem native shares Ukraine experience

by Shawn Nowlin 

It’s been 31 years since Ukraine became an independent state with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. When Russian began its invasion of the second-largest country by area in Europe on Feb. 22, it became the largest conventional military attack on the continent since World War II.
Water, heat, medicine, and food have become increasingly scarce in many areas. To allow civilians to safely flee besieged Ukrainian cities, Russian officials recently announced they plan to carry out a limited cease-fire.
A boycott of all Russian products has been called for by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President Joe Biden, and many other country leaders.
On Feb. 23, President Biden released a statement on Russia’s unprovoked attack.
“The prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces. President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”
Morgan Tennant understands first-hand the carnage that Russia’s invasion has caused. Just a few months ago, Tennant, a 2019 Salem High graduate, was teaching English to young students at three different schools in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Before the bombings started in Kyiv, Morgan evacuated on a 23-hour bus ride to Hungary.
“Before I left, everything operated like normal with no one expecting what eventually came in the following days and even now. I’ve only heard from one contact in Kyiv who is hiding in a bunker and constantly hears explosions and bombs going off,” Tennant said. “Since I left Kyiv, I’ve witnessed a number of demonstrations and rallies in support of Ukraine across Europe.”
Born in Roanoke but raised in Salem, Morgan’s parents, Billy and Kim, always encouraged their daughter to pursue her dreams and passions. “My family has always been supportive in the paths that I have chosen to go down, especially concerning my career and future endeavors. I like to put aside conformity as I value individualism, which sometimes seems like a bold decision, but they always encourage me to do what I feel is best,” she said.
During her final two years at Salem High, Morgan simultaneously completed the Regional Academy courses at Virginia Western Community College. After graduating in 2019, she attended Virginia Commonwealth University with a major in English.
Because she’d always been thrilled by the idea of travel, in late 2020, Morgan started looking for ways to make that happen. She searched for jobs that would take her abroad and fiddled with the idea of taking a few months off to experience certain things by herself.
“A few months into 2021, I had found an opportunity that would send me to a foreign country to teach English in an immersion program. I knew it was right as soon as I found it, so I figured out the paperwork and applied right away,” she said. “I got my assignment in Kyiv, Ukraine, a few weeks after I was accepted and flew out to start teaching.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, over two million adults and children have fled the country, the Ukrainian military has shot down multiple Russian fighter jets and a cruise missile, and somewhere around 4,000 Russian soldiers have died.
Morgan wants people to know that the war in Ukraine is not entertainment, nor is it a joke or simply a social media post created for likes or views. It is people hiding in metro stations and in bunkers beneath their buildings to stay alive and keep safe from bombing and constant shelling. It is people fleeing their country to reach safety only to leave loved ones behind who must stay and fight. It is not fiction,” she said. “This is insanity, this is war, and this is the reality. Be mindful. Be prayerful. Support Ukraine.”