University of Illinois graduate documenting Russia-Ukraine war

Terrell Starr has never been right in the middle of a war, but now he is.

"That's an explosion," said Terrell Starr, a native of Detroit. He went to Ukraine for a visit in January.

During our 40-minute-long Zoom interview, Starr was on high alert as explosions and war crafts moved overhead.

Starr — a double Master’s graduate from the University of Illinois — has a degree in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. He also has a degree in journalism.

Starr traveled to Ukraine to work on a tourism business and ended up there during the war. Instead of fleeing, he took his selfie stick and cellphone and ran toward the devastation.

In one of his videos, he captured a building hit by an airstrike that caught fire — all residents are now homeless. It’s still unclear how many were injured and how many people died.

Starr is in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, where Russia first invaded. The 41-year-old first visited Kyiv in 2009 as a Full Bright scholar and has traveled back frequently since.

"The change happened in a matter of 24 hours ago. This is the first time where I am consistently hearing fighter jets zip past," said Starr.


Starr isn’t alone, Laura Bardwell is from Northwest Indiana. Bardwell — a missionary in Ukraine for 19 years now — lives 40 miles from the Polish border with her husband and two teen sons. The family has taken in five refugees who fled the bombing in Kyiv.

Bardwell says they're living under martial law, with black-outs at night and checkpoints.

"Pray for the people and just know that there are people who want to be free," said Bardwell. "They are people who are free that are fighting just to keep their freedom."

Starr and Bardwell both say they aren’t leaving because they stand with the people of Ukraine.