ARLINGTON, Virginia — A Marymount University student who was born in Ukraine recently returned to the Catholic school in the Washington suburb of Arlington after spending his spring break in his homeland to help his family flee Russia’s brutal invasion.

“It’s a lot worse of a situation than even what’s being shown on TV,” said the student, a senior graphic and media design major, who journeyed to both Poland and Ukraine March 7-11. “When I was in Lviv (Ukraine), every five to 10 minutes the sirens would go off, warning anyone and everyone to find shelter or evacuate.”

“Near the edge of Lviv, I saw several bodies just laying outside buildings because there aren’t really any spots right now to bury victims. It was all very nerve-wracking,” said A.C., who asked that his full name be withheld due to threats against his own and his family’s safety.

He made the comments in an article posted on a Marymount blog.

An American citizen since moving to the U.S. as a child, he has numerous Ukrainian family members whose homes are in the capital city of Kyiv and the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, both of which have been prime targets of the Russian assault.

While some of A.C.’s family were successfully evacuated westward and are temporarily resettled in Poland’s capital of Warsaw, other family members currently in Kyiv have refused to leave their home country and are determined to brave an uncertain and dangerous future as Russian troops seek to encircle the city.

“I pleaded with them, begged them to leave … told them, ‘You will die if you stay here.’ While I admire their patriotism for Ukraine, it’s inevitable what will happen and I would rather them be alive than sacrifice their lives,” A.C. explained.

The Russian troops are “attacking churches, hospitals, apartment complexes,” he said. “They’re just openly targeting civilians because of their nationality — it is genocide, and there’s no other way to describe it.”

Although he left his birth country at age 6, A.C. said he has always worked on gaining a deeper understanding of Ukraine’s history, culture and people.

With Marymount being located just outside Washington, he is close to sites such as the Ukrainian Embassy in the nation’s capital and Ukrainian churches that offer volunteering opportunities, language classes and festival events that feature popular Ukrainian dishes, like borscht, a soup, and varenyky, which are boiled dumplings stuffed with potato cheese or another filling.

Since the invasion of Ukraine began Feb. 24, A.C. has made his voice heard at protests outside the Russian Embassy and at Lafayette Square near the White House, where demonstrators have expressed their support for Ukraine and called on the federal government to hold Russia accountable.

“If he’s successful, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin won’t just stop with Ukraine,” A.C. said. “Finland, Estonia, Poland and others will all be in danger.”

Meanwhile on campus, A.C. has played a key role in Marymount’s efforts to raise awareness and solidarity for Ukraine and its people. He wrote and delivered a poem called ‘My Ukraine’ during a March 17 interfaith prayer vigil for peace held in the Lee Center on campus.

“I stand by my nation of Ukraine,” the poem said in part. “I love you. Fight for our land. This is our land. This is our home. Slava Ukraini.”