As classes near their end, many students are preparing to return home and visit family for the summer. However, for many Cornellians from Ukraine, due to the destruction that has erupted from the war back home, this is no longer a possibility.
The last time Andrii Iermolaiev ’23 was back home in Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine was last August. He will be in California for an internship, but is unable to renew his student visa.
“My visa is expiring this month, and I cannot renew it because I cannot go home, so I cannot leave the U.S.,” Iermolaiev said. “I’m legally here, but I cannot leave the country because I will not be able to re-enter the U.S.”
Iermolaiev also mentioned the impact of the war on his family back home.
“People I know are currently serving in the military [both] in my family and outside of my family,” Iermolaiev said. “Everybody I know either had to leave the country or had to move to safer places.”
Most of Iermolaiev’s family lived in the southern region of Ukraine, and were forced to move further north to escape the war. In early March, some of his family were forced out of their hometown in Kherson, the first Ukrainian city the Russians seized.
Several other students’ families have been forced to leave the country like Ukrainian veterinary student, Maryna Mullerman grad.
“My grandparents live in Ukraine, but due to the war, they have been evacuated to the Netherlands,” Mullerman said. “My other family is now in Poland, so they’re very close to the border just because they’re really hoping to go back.”
Not everyone could find a safe shelter outside of Ukraine as Mullerman’s distant family members are still in Ukraine.
“We’ve been in contact with them, but really no one is safe right now,” Mullerman said. “It’s not a possibility. So, whoever is currently within the Ukrainian borders are very much in danger.”
Mullerman plans to stay in Ithaca as a teaching assistant for a veterinary class from June to July. The rest of the summer, she is planning on going to New York City to volunteer for Razom, a New York-based Ukrainian volunteer organization that is currently collecting and delivering humanitarian aid for those who have been affected by the war in Ukraine.
“The difficulty with the situation is that you never know what is going to happen tomorrow,” Mullerman said.
Nevertheless, she remains hopeful that she will be able to go back to Europe to deliver supplies to those who are in urgent need.
“There have been volunteers that have been going to Ukraine or to the border delivering things in suitcases,” Mullerman said. “I’m also hoping to see my grandparents in the Netherlands if I do go to Europe, but that again is all very tentative and the situation is very much in development every day.”
Like Mullerman, Ivan Kosyuk grad, is planning on spending his summer helping those who have been affected by the war.
Kosyuk is from Kyiv, Ukraine and has lived there for most of his life. His entire family is currently in Ukraine, some in Kyiv and others residing in smaller towns in Ukraine. The last time Kosyuk was home was this past winter.
“I’m in contact with my family, they’re always reachable, they’re always online,” Kosyuk said. “I usually talk to them at least once a week.”
Fortunately, most of his family has been able to remain where they are because the area where they reside in Kyiv has not been affected by the bombings.
“My grandad lives two minutes away from Bucha, so he had to evacuate to my parents’ house,” Kosyuk said. “My parents house is in the outskirts of Kyiv, but it’s in the safe end – it’s a part that’s nowhere near attacks or anything.”
Originally, Kosyuk was planning on working on his own financial startup for people from Europe and the U.S. to invest in a variety of businesses in Ukraine.
“We were actually ready to launch just a week before the war started. So, my original plan was to get it ready and when I come home to Ukraine during the summer to get it started,” Kosyuk said. “But I’m not going at least until whenever everything ends.”
Due to the war, Kosyuk has shifted gears and found a different way to help those who have been affected by the war.
Combining his Operations Research and Information Engineering concentration in Financial Engineering with his determination to help those in need back home, Kosyuk has launched his own company for Ukrainian engineers. He plans to stay in Ithaca for the summer and continue working on his company, Ukrainian IT Hub.
“We launched the company to create special working conditions for Ukrainian engineers, something that would fit their unpredictable nature that was going on back home,” Kosyuk said.
Kosyuk noted that many remote companies in Europe and the U.S. view Ukrainian engineers as unreliable due to the unpredictable state of the country – they may lose internet connection or electricity, or even may need to go offline for a few days.
Consequently, Kosyuk has focused on creating a work structure in which people are able to choose the number of hours they can work depending on what works best with their schedule.
“This seems to be working out, so I plan to continue to do this throughout the summer,” Kosyuk told The Sun.
Unlike Kosyuk’s family who did not have to move out of Kyiv, family members of Kyrylo Chernyshov ’20 had to leave their home.
“My mom and my sisters left the country. My dad is still in the country, because he can’t leave but he’s in the western part of Ukraine now,” Chernyshov said. “Any plans that I had of going back home for a week or so to visit, have kind of evaporated.”
However, according to Chernyshov, because he is no longer a student, he slightly has more flexibility than current students who have a set summer break schedule.
“I can take a vacation anytime, but the point is that if I was going to take a vacation this year to go back home, that is unlikely to happen at least in the near future,” Chernyshov said.