Haitian UW student deals with disaster from afar - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Haitian UW student deals with disaster from afar


MADISON (WKOW) -- No matter where you're from, it's difficult to see and hear about the disaster in Haiti. But imagine seeing those images, knowing it's your home country that's left in pieces after Tuesday's earthquake.

That's the reality for Gergens Polynice, a graduate student at UW-Madison who was born and raised in Haiti. It's been a difficult week for Polynice, who flew out of Haiti the morning of the earthquake.

"I left hours before the earthquake last Tuesday to come back to Madison, and it's been a horrible situation," said Polynice.

More than 3,000 miles from home, Polynice is watching his country crumble.

"It's a horrible feeling to be away and not being able to do anything," he said.

It's a whirlwind of emotions: relief for his parents' safety, guilt for his own, and grief for the ones who are gone. Two of his cousins were inside a cathedral when it collapsed during the quake, killing them both.

The beautiful country he calls home is now buried in rubble, completely unrecognizable.

"For example, the National Palace.... Even when you stand in front of the palace, it's just a beautiful building. To see that crumbled down, it's hard to watch," said Polynice.

Polynice's parents run a water treatment plant in Port-au-Prince, which was only slightly damaged by the quake. Now, the need for that water is all the more urgent.

Polynice is working toward a Ph.D. in sustainable development. He hopes to use his education to improve Haiti's infrastructure, perhaps in order to prevent the kind of destruction left by the quake.

But for now, Polynice must sit and wait, trying to focus on the future, instead of the fear.

"I know it's horrible, but mentally I try to go beyond that. Maybe that's just a natural coping mechanism, but I try to look at the positive and the future, and hopefully it will be something good."

Online reporting by Jamie Hersch
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