Rivals.com - Russian invasion brings world of uncertainty for LB Nikita Persson
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Russian invasion brings world of uncertainty for LB Nikita Persson

Nikita Persson
Nikita Persson (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

MONTEREY PARK, Calif. – As war wages in Ukraine, as a 40-mile Russian tank convoy storms to Kyiv, as shelling continues in an invasion that has sparked global outrage, Nikita Persson does his best to learn whatever news he can.

A 2024 linebacker from San Diego Cathedral Catholic, Persson’s mother was born and raised in Russia. His grandfather was born in Ukraine. His grandparents and other family members still live in a small city outside St. Petersburg.

The last several days have been stressful, to say the least, for Persson and his family – in the United States and abroad.

“They’ve been cutting off forms of communication and banks, so it’s been hard to get the real information besides what’s on the news,” Persson said Sunday at the Rivals Camp Series at East Los Angeles College. “It’s been pretty hard on my mother and her side of the family. We have friends who are in Russia and Ukraine. There’s just not enough information to get the truth, but obviously it’s terrible what’s going on.”

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Although communication has been difficult, Persson’s mother continues to attempt to reach family members back in Russia.

Every passing hour brings new horrors, new uncertainty, new reporting about what’s happening in Moscow, what’s happening in Kyiv and across the region. Finding out the realities on the ground from loved ones there has been challenging.

“My mother usually talks to them,” Persson said. “I heard it has been pretty hard for them just to talk on the phone and get online. They’ve shut off so many things, like Facebook they shut off, Twitter and social media. They’re not allowing any communication.

“We’ve been following the news but we don’t know what’s exactly true and what’s not. It’s hard to understand what’s really going on with them blocking communication.”

In many ways, the Persson family story is the American dream. Persson’s mother was a Russian student who studied in Florida, met her husband, started a family with three children and they now live in the San Diego area.

Persson attends San Diego Cathedral Catholic, one of the most beautiful high school campuses in the country, an elegant private school a few miles inland from Del Mar and Torrey Pines.

Still, the reality of what’s happening back in Russia and Ukraine pull at the heartstrings.

“We used to go almost every year over the summertime,” Persson said of returning to Russia. “Recently, because of high school football and other things like that, we haven’t gone as much, but every other year we’ve been going.

“Just the thought of I don’t know how my grandparents are doing and my aunt and uncle live there, too, just knowing their safety is at risk and friends and family in Ukraine, too. I can’t sleep well. It doesn’t sit right not knowing what’s going on.”

So there’s football. Something to occupy his time and his focus. A weekend football camp was good enough this time. Other events will happen as this unfolds.

Persson does not have any college offers yet, but the 2024 linebacker is working toward it. He’s living his dream, even though his family back in Russia and friends in Ukraine are experiencing something closer to a nightmare.

“It’s always been an outlet,” Persson said of football. “I love the sport and I love everything that comes with it. It’s always been something I can use to take my mind off things.”