Ukrainian law student shares her experience

Photo courtesy of Hanna Tereshko

Hanna Tereshko LLM ’22 woke up in the early morning of Feb. 24 in Kyiv, Ukraine to panic within her country. She had to leave most of her personal belongings as she was fleeing Kyiv, amid widescaletransportation collapses.

“It was a really challenging experience, frankly speaking,” Tereshko said. “Russians had started to bomb Kyiv early in the morning, something like 4 or 5 a.m.When I woke up, I just understood what was going on. I started to pack all my stuff, and I left my flat.”

Now, she resides in her native town in Ukraine and continues to go to work and attend her online classes.

“The first few days, they were absolutely awful,” Tereshko said. “We were all — had been in panic because we just didn’t know what even to expect, what level the violence would be and what would be the size of this war. The first day was really, really difficult, terrible and I personally was in great panic. After the first week, we all started to become more calm.”

Tereshko, who began her professional law career in 2013, applied to Lewis & Clark Law School’s animal law program to expand her legal expertise in international animal law, farm animal protections and her main interest, nonhuman animals legal personhood. She was selected to receive an International Advocates Animal Law LLM Scholarship. Additionally, Tereshko established the NGO Open Cages Ukraine, organized the first Ukrainian farmed animals’ protection conference in 2018 and is a deputy head for the Ukrainian Bar Association.

Despite uncertainties, Tereshko hopes to finish her animal law degree this semester.

“In the current situation, my plan can be changed at any minute and it depends not on my will, but it depends on the situation in the country,” Tereshko said.“But currently, I’m studying remotely and I continue my studies, so I really hope that I will be able to continue a degree.”

Every day, she checks the news and maps of the invasion to adjust her plan accordingly. Much of what motivates her is the need to survive in spite of attempted genocide. However, Tereshko described growing feelings of survivor’s guilt every seemingly normal day she has.

“I see that almost all people I know have this, because it’s simply not possible not to think about what’s going on, Tereshko said. “This is simply not possible, not to feel guilty because someone was killed and you’re just continuing to live your life. No, of course it is difficult. I try to volunteer, I try to help stray animals and animals in the shelter. I hope I will be able, also, to volunteer to help people here in Ukraine.”

The enduring nature of the war around her has not allowed reprieve, as she views joy, even in small ways, impossible. Instead, looking toward the future is what motivates her.

“No, I cannot say that it’s possible to find at least something for happiness,” Tereshko said. “It’s simply not possible to feel happy during these times. For hope, I just have hope that our country will win and that we will survive, because (the Russians) just want us to disappear. They want us to be dead and to destroy our country.”

Tereshko also mentioned her appreciation for the kind words and support she has received from her instructors and peers at LC. While these remarks cannot change the situation, they serve as a motivation to persevere and fulfill her dream of studying animal law.

“I really enjoy the studying,” Tereshko said. “If not for this situation, I would be absolutely happy because I really like how the program is organized. I really love the friendly attitude of the faculty, so it’s really great. It’s just destiny (that) I am here because I never thought that I would be able to study animal law.”

Now, Tereshko continues her daily responsibilities as she hopes that the United Nations will establish a no-fly zone, as many other Ukrainians are wishing for at the moment.

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