Ukraine

Cambridge Student Back Home in Ukraine, Ready to Defend Against Russia

Until December, Andrii Gustal was studying finance in Cambridge, Massachusetts; now, he's in Kyiv and prepared to fight for his country as it's attacked by Russia

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A Ukrainian man who was studying finance in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is now in his home country and a phone call away from taking up arms to fight off the invading Russian army.

Andrii Gustal spoke with NBC10 Boston just minutes after a rocket that exploded a mile away from his home in southern Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.

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Finding a reliable internet connection in Ukraine nowadays can be difficult, he said, after multiple attempts to connect online.

"It probably is Russians' fault," he said.

The 33-year-old believes residents in his neighborhood overwhelmed the internet networks following the missile strike around 9 p.m. in Kyiv.

"It was scary," he admitted. "Our windows -- they were not broken, but they were shaking."

It's not the life Gustal imagined before moving out of the Boston area. The finance student at Hult International Business School chose to return to Ukraine in December to finish his last course online -- that dream is now on hold.

"There's a definite risk that we're going to get killed," he said.

A curfew is in place in Ukraine's capital. Despite the growing attacks by Russia's invading forces, Gustal and his family are staying put.

"I don't want to go anywhere. I can go back to Boston, I can come up with a bunch of plans – it's easier to be here for me than somewhere away."

Staying means Gustal is just a call away from taking up arms. For now, he and other residents in his apartment building are monitoring the neighborhood, ready to defend their home with guns and Molotov cocktails.

"They were not trained for this. No one was trained for this," acknowledged Gustal.

The other battle he's fighting is in his head. The war is taking a psychological toll.

"I'm talking now very calmly, but it's not always like that," he said. "The rage is all over the people of my country."

To cope with the fear and anger, Gustal says Ukrainians try to find ways to mock Russia's president and his army.

Gustal is urging NATO allies to help close the airspace to keep the rockets from landing on Ukrainian homes.

One of the actions he praised was the long list of companies banning their products in Russia.

"That list is huge, and I'm proud of that list. I will be a loyal customer of every company who does this. So if you're on that list, Ukrainians will give you our dollars," he said.

It's these symbolic acts that he says help keep their fighting spirit alive. Even something as simple as flashing the colors of the Ukrainian flag onto Boston's Zakim Bridge is meaningful to Gustal.

"I saw the picture of the bridge, and it was blue, and it was yellow, and it was warming my heart," he said, holding back tears. "Just keep the lights on."

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