Ukraine conflict brings realism to Model U.N.

The 35th annual Minnesota YMCA Model United Nations conference is kicking off this weekend to bring youth together to learn about global issues.

Over 400 students stepped into the shoes of a diplomat from nations across the world. Each person took on the role of the United Nations to practice compromise in the midst of global tension.

“My favorite part for sure is kind of interacting with different people and getting to make these connections and build those soft skills that are super important,” Olesia Sarazhynskyy, YMCA Model United Nations student, said.

Sarazhynskyy is a regular at the annual event. She came for the first time in 8th grade, but the 17-year-old says this year feels different.

“It’s very difficult because all of this is very real to me now,” she said.

Sarazhynskyy is Ukrainian. Her parents emigrated from the country in the early 2000s, but family members still live in Ukraine as tensions remain high with Russia.

“I mean everywhere is a warzone basically, just awful,” she said.

She explained the conference acts as a guide because it gives her a better understanding of the United Nations’ role in the current crisis. 

“I feel like our students are so sophisticated, more sophisticated than most people know. They are paying attention and they know what’s going on,” Amy Anderson, Minnesota YMCA Center for Youth Voice executive director, said.

YMCA officials said this year’s conference comes at the perfect time to curb any confusion.

“We call this model United Nations because obviously it’s not the real thing, but it is as close to the real thing as you’re going to get,” she said. “You come in and learn about countries, learn about issues from different countries and learn about perspectives from different countries.”