12 May 2023 |
When the Russian full-scale military operations began in Ukraine in February 2022, Adventist colleges and universities were asked how they could help displaced Ukrainian students whose education had been interrupted due to the crisis. Kettering College answered by offering 50 scholarships to Ukrainian students. According to ANN, the “students’ tuition, room and board, textbooks, and other expenses were fully paid, thanks to the generosity of the Kettering Health Foundation and individual sponsors.”
Three specific students were highlighted by the Ukrainian Union Conference to share their stories in ANN’s Report:
Before the war, Svitlana Shnurenko, age 23, was a student living with her parents in Bucha, a college town 12 miles (19 kilometers) from Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Although she had dreamed of a career in medicine as a child, she put that dream on hold as a young adult to pursue project management.
In the early morning hours of February 24, 2022, Svitlana woke up to the terrifying noise of Russian planes dropping bombs as her mother told her the sad news that conflict had broken out. “At that moment, I realized the horror of the situation,” she says.
Svitlana’s family had developed an evacuation plan: They would go to her grandfather’s house in Volyn, in western Ukraine, 240 miles (390 kilometers) from home. “All the necessary things and documents were collected a week before,” she says.
However, when the media reported that Russia was bombing airports across the country, including the Gostomel military airfield, just two miles from their home, they realized “there is no safe place in Ukraine.”
Svitlana, her mother, brother, and two family friends crammed into their small car with a few belongings. Her father, a pastor, stayed behind to evacuate the students.
“That was the last time I hugged my dear dad,” Svitlana says sadly.
As Russian bombers hovered overhead, her brother drove the car through an area engulfed in fire and smoke. Soon, they joined thousands of cars stranded on the road, their drivers panicked, trying to drive in one direction: away from Kyiv.
When they reached Volyn, they faced even more heartbreaking farewells. At that time in Ukraine, men ages 18–60 were no longer allowed to leave the country unless they were studying at a foreign university. Otherwise, their duty was to defend Ukraine.
“I will never forget that feeling of sadness when you realize that this may be the last time you hug your brother and grandfather,” says Svitlana.
The women continued their journey. For several months, they lived in Czechia (Czech Republic) with distant relatives, applying for tourist visas. They hoped to get to Toronto, Ontario, where Svitlana’s sister lives. When Svitlana and her mother were unable to obtain documents from the Canadian Embassy in Prague, they turned to the Canadian Embassy in Poland.
“It was a difficult journey—long lines and sleepless nights,” says Svitlana.
They were also worried about their father.
“My father was risking his life to get people out of the most unfavorable and dangerous cities,” Svitlana says. “He was surrounded, and we lost contact with him for several days.”
Svitlana says that when her father was able to contact them again, “The first thing he sent me was a message about Kettering College.” Her father found out about this opportunity, remembering his daughter’s dream of becoming a doctor.
“It was like a ray of hope,” Svitlana says.
Vladyslav (“Vlad”) Malyshevskyi’s family lives in central Ukraine.
“We didn’t experience the loss of our home or the loss of relatives,” Vladyslav says. “But the whole family was very stressed because we didn’t know what would happen next, especially because I was already 17 at the time, and everyone was worried that I would soon be 18 and would have to become a soldier.”
Vladyslav, whose mother is a doctor, studied agronomy at a local university. At church, he heard his pastor’s announcement of an opportunity to attend Kettering College, but, as Vladyslav says, “I couldn’t believe I could be so lucky.”
Vladyslav and his parents struggled with the difficult decision. “My parents really didn’t want to let me go, but they were very worried about me and didn’t see a future [for me in Ukraine].”
When Vladyslav was accepted into the program, his 18th birthday was approaching. He needed to leave Ukraine, but he did not yet have all the necessary documents to obtain a visa. Therefore, he traveled to Poland, where he lived in a church for more than a month, all the while working with the U.S. embassy to obtain a visa. When Vladyslav finally received his visa, “The trip itself was quite difficult because it was my first experience with airports,” he says. “I flew from Warsaw to Paris, and from there to Cincinnati, where I was met by college staff.”
Vladyslav arrived at Kettering College after the fall semester had already begun, but he was finally here.
When Daniela Korchuk, now 18, was a young teenager, her father told her, “No matter what profession you choose in the future, the main thing is to serve people. It’s all about God.”
As a student at the Ukrainian Humanitarian Institute in Bucha, Daniela decided to study economics yet never really saw herself in this profession.
“I didn’t know how I could serve people,” Daniela says.
When the Russian military interrupted her studies, friends who had fled to western Ukraine invited Daniela and her mother to join them. Arriving at their destination and crammed into a small house with 15 people in it, the people decided to continue west.
By the time Daniela arrived at Kettering College with all the documents she needed to study there, her journey had taken her through Slovakia, Czechia, the United States, Norway, and back to the United States.
However, power outages and other conflict-related circumstances at the time forced Daniela’s family to leave their home more than once.
One day, her father returned to find one side of the house riddled with holes—shrapnel scars left by a rocket that hit their neighbor’s house—and his office looted by the Russians, who had occupied another neighboring house at the time.
The students now communicate with their parents via text, phone call, and and video call and are settling into their new environment at Kettering. They feel that God has protected and provided for them throughout the conflict. Svitlana, especially, feels that this is an answer to a prayer she prayed when she was sick many years ago and asked God to show her his plan for her life.
That night she had a dream. “I was sitting on this high bed and reading huge books in a language that was not my native tongue,” says Svitlana, adding that she saw the details “so vividly that I could draw them.”
She was confused about the dream for a long time until a staff member opened the door to her new dorm room at Kettering and she saw the high bed and the details of the room that she had dreamt about many years ago.
Svitlana adds, “I like that God can turn something as evil as war into something good, like the opportunity for us to be here and study. And then, God can use us to help other people.”