Ukrainian foreign exchange student Viktoria Babyna, center, stands with her host mother, Jody Skar, right, and Birchwood School District Supt. Gayle Luebke. The Student Council held a pancake breakfast on Saturday to raise funds for the teen’s family, who recently moved to Italy to avoid the warfare in their home country.

BIRCHWOOD - Viktoria Babyna’s stay as a foreign exchange student in Birchwood started as most others do. She studied hard simultaneously at her home country and northern Wisconsin schools. She made friends among her classmates and community members, and integrated herself into her host family’s home.

But the 17-year-old’s educational foray to the tiny Washburn County village to the north of Rice Lake took a turn on Feb. 24 at 5 a.m. Ukrainian time. Her mother texted her that war had started in their home country of Ukraine, located to the west of Russia.

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