JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. (WATE) – Many Ukrainians would be celebrating their Independence Day on Wednesday, but instead, Ukraine’s president is urging the public to be vigilant and warning that the holiday may bring heavier attacks on the country.

Feb. 24, 2022, was the day that Russia officially invaded Ukraine. Many refugees have made their way to the states and to East Tennessee.

It’s been six months since Carson-Newman University Professor Vova Gorbenko’s life forever changed.

His family said they’re relying on faith in the midst of war. Gorbenko was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union.

“The city where I was born and grew up was Zaporizhzhya,” he said. “That’s southeast of Ukraine. It’s between Kyiv the capital and Donetsk.”

This is where he met his wife and where his two children grew up. He worked at a local seminary and as a minister at his church.

“I worked as an academic dean and as a new testament teacher,” Gorbenko said. “So, my workday would start at 8 a.m., and I would normally be at work until 4:30, 5 p.m.”

After work, he would resume church responsibilities and go home to his family.

He said as a neighboring country to Russia, war was always top of his mind. “Russia has always had imperial ambitions.”

Then, the day they feared finally came.

“It was a typical day,” Gorbenko said. “It was Thursday morning, and I was getting ready to go to work and my wife was getting ready to go to work.”

They would hear bombs going off in the distance throughout the day. In the following weeks, he spent nights with his family in a bunker inside their home. It was during that time they knew they couldn’t stay and remain safe.

“I decided to drive through curfew hours between cities. That was a big day and a big decision for us.”

That decision eventually led him to East Tennessee and a teaching job at Carson-Newman University.

“In terms of our future, it’s still uncertain,” Gorbenko said. “Of course, we can’t help but check the news several times a day and see what’s happening in Ukraine. We hope that Ukraine will retain its borders and we hope that life will be as normal in Ukraine one day. It doesn’t look like it right now but that’s where our hope is.”

Gorbenko said he hopes his students can gain a greater understanding of his country’s history, and also grow in their faith through his class and their college experience at Carson Newman.

Classes at Carson Newman started last week. Along with serving as the university’s assistant director of campus ministries, he is teaching new testament in the School of Biblical and Theological Studies this semester. 

As Ukraine marks its independence day and six months in the war with Russia, the U.S. announced a new $3 billion dollar package of aid for the country.

It’s the largest package yet and is intended to help Ukraine in the long term and signal ongoing support for their fight. The money will fund contracts for drones, weapons and other equipment.