Windsor teen, adopted from Ukraine, spearheads march to support exchange student

  • Windsor High School students Liam Attwood, left, and Hudson Ranney lead a march in support of Ukraine in Windsor on Saturday. Attendees were encouraged to donate to the Springfield Booster Club to support a Ukrainian exchange student at Springfield High School with family members who are currently refugees in Poland. Alex Driehaus / Valley News

  • Windsor High School special education teacher Anne Rising, center, and MaryBeth Cook, of Windsor, right, congratulate Liam Attwood, 17, on successfully organizing a march in support of Ukraine in Windsor on Saturday. “This kid organized this all by himself,” Rising said. “I’m so incredibly moved.” Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

  • Eli Smith, 5, waves a Ukrainian flag in the air while he walks with his mother, Amanda Smith, of Windsor, Vt., during a march in support of Ukraine in Windsor on Saturday, April 2, 2022. Smith’s grandfather came to the U.S. as a displaced person from the former Yugoslavia after WWII. “That’s really shaped my perspective,” she said, and she wants to make sure that Windsor is a welcoming community for everyone. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • A sign made by Jo Laggis, of Fairfield, Vt., lays on the ground after a march in support of Ukraine in Windsor, Vt., on Saturday, April 2, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/4/2022 3:43:23 PM
Modified: 4/4/2022 3:42:45 PM

WINDSOR — When Russian troops invaded Ukraine, they stirred something inside Liam Attwood that has percolated into action.

Attwood, an 18-year-old junior at Windsor High School, was adopted at age 3 out of an orphanage in the province of Kirovohrad, about 200 miles south of Kyiv, Ukraine.

He’s spent the past 15 years in the Upper Valley, but he’s often wondered about his origins — his country, his culture, his biological family. He’s thought about visiting Ukraine, but the instability in the region has made that unsafe.

Then Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and Attwood’s interest grew even more.

Adrian Attwood said he could see his son struggling with what Ukraine meant to him.

“This is a good connection for him,” Adrian said of Liam’s growing understanding of his original country. “He looks a little more comfortable in his skin now.”

Saturday, Attwood led about 100 people and at least six dogs on a 1-mile march around Windsor with cars honking and people shouting in support of Ukraine.

But this wasn’t a symbolic march for Attwood. Like the Ukrainian people who have been admired around the world for their spirit in the face of Russian tanks, Attwood has found a way to help one of the only people he could — a Ukrainian exchange student at nearby Springfield High School.

Future neighbors

Arman Kazarian is, according to a Springfield Booster Club member, the only Ukrainian exchange student in Vermont. He was supposed to go home in May but has been trapped in the United States without knowing what’s next. His family has fled to Poland.

The Springfield Booster Club has turned its attention from supporting the school’s athletic teams to trying to find a way to bring Kazarian’s family to the United States; they’ve has enlisted the help of U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, but red tape has slowed the process.

Stephen Lawrence and Markee Esterline of the Springfield Booster Club marched with Attwood on Saturday to show support for his efforts.

If the logistics can be sorted out, there will be money ready for plane tickets and other costs of moving Kazarian’s mother, father and younger sister to the Upper Valley. And the money will be used to help Kazarian’s expenses here until he can return.

“There is hope we could find a way to have Arman’s family come here,” Lawrence told the gathering. “Maybe even become your neighbors.”

Liam Attwood’s mother, Sarah, said she appreciates the support and hopes a way to help Kazarian’s family is found.

“This student is living in our community, and his family is in trouble,” Sarah Attwood said.

He found his voice

In the halls of Windsor High School, Liam Attwood says he’s still “just Liam,” despite the constant barrage of news out of Ukraine.

But his teachers and principal see a difference in the quiet, slight student athlete.

Two of the marchers, Catharine Engwall and Kim Brinck-Johnsen, are faculty advisers for, respectively, the WHS Social Justice Coalition and Student Council, two groups that joined forces to support the march.

“The students have really taken responsibility for this,” Brinck-Johnsen said. “It was their idea.”

Windsor schools co-principal Kate Ryan, as she walked with the group, said Saturday was “everything you want to see.”

“Liam took charge,” said Ryan, who describes him as quiet but a good student, a competitive cross country runner and “a nice kid.”

Attwood had been attending rallies at Dartmouth and Woodstock but felt the drive to do more.

“He walked into my office one day and said, ‘I want to do something in Windsor,’ ” Ryan recalled. “He found his voice. This is his come-alive moment.”

And Ryan said the movement has done something else. Attwood’s support for Kazarian, whom he hasn’t met except on Facebook, are bonding two schools known more for their fierce rivalry in sports.

Lawrence, the booster club member, is also the Springfield cross country coach. Attwood is a runner from the opposing school.

“Rivalries don’t matter when people are involved,” Lawrence said. “Rivalries get pushed aside.

For his part, Liam Attwood said the war in Ukraine has reshaped his view of his birth country and its residents.

“It’s amazing to see what they’ve done so far in the war,” he said. “How strong they are. It’s an amazing feeling when you think, ‘Wow, that’s where I’m from.’ I look at Ukraine as my country.”

He had one sentiment for area residents: “Keep supporting Ukraine.”

To get involved or contribute to support Arman Kazarian and his family, contact the Springfield Booster Club at P.O. Box 666 in Springfield, Vt. More information can be found on the group’s Facebook page.Darren Marcy can be reached at dmarcy@vnews.com or 802-291-4992.


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