War in Ukraine hits home for Trojan rower
While Anastasiia Slivina trains and competes with the USC women’s rowing team, her family in Ukraine deals with life in a war zone. (Photo: John McGillen.)

War in Ukraine hits home for Trojan rower

Despite the conflict in her home country, junior Anastasiia Slivina stays strong for her family and her teammates.
ByGrayson Schmidt

The demands of being a Division I athlete at a top university like USC are more than most can handle. For the last few months, rower Anastasiia Slivina has been meeting all of those challenges — studying, attending class, practicing, training, competing — on autopilot. With her home country of Ukraine under attack, nothing else seems quite as important.

“People ask how I’m coping with this, and honestly don’t even know,” Slivina said. “And the worst thing is that I would much rather just be there and help my country somehow.”

Slivina, who grew up in Kyiv, said her family could not flee the country because her 19-year-old younger brother was required to stay and fight. While the rest of the family stayed at their home in the countryside, her mother, who is a doctor, had to return to work in Kyiv to support them. Her work at the hospital never stops, and when her mother can sleep, Slivina says she does so in corridors away from windows.

Meanwhile, Slivina is nearly 6,300 miles away, competing for USC and working toward her bachelor’s degree in international relations and social sciences from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“That first week was probably the hardest for me,” Slivina said. “But I kept practicing. … I always tried to keep it cool with my teammates just because I didn’t want to spread my negative energy to them.”

Pulling for each other

Slivina came to USC Dornsife in 2019 after having rowed competitively for a little over two years. 

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and raised in Kyiv, Slivina took up rowing at the suggestion of her physical education teacher. She quickly excelled and was asked to compete for the more professional clubs in Kyiv, which eventually caught the eye of USC coaches. 

Her first season with the Trojans was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Slivina was able to return home and compete for her country at the 2020 and 2021 European Championships.

Now, the 15th-ranked Trojan women’s rowing team approach their final stretch of this season with only the NCAA Championships left to go. 

Despite carrying a pain that most couldn’t imagine, Slivina is still on those boats with her teammates. She’s still at the workouts, and she’s still in the classroom. Though she doesn’t have an answer for how she’s been able to persevere, she continues to move forward.

“I obviously have some breakdown moments, but I understand myself, and know that’s OK in this situation,” Slivina said. “Ukraine means a lot to me, and I have a very strong spiritual connection to home, my family and the nation.”

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