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An Inspiring Story of a War-Time Ukrainian Student

3 April 2023

This is a success story of an 18-year-old Ukrainian student, Zlata Biedarieva, who achieved her dream thanks to her determination and activity. Zlata had a dream of receiving a high-quality education at the American University in Kyiv. Because of the family's financial struggles due to the war and the fact that Zlata’s father joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the family couldn’t afford this dream.

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Despite that, she remained persistent and proactive in finding ways to fund her education. And her hard work paid off! Thanks to the UA House scholarship program, Zlata could achieve her dream and pursue the higher education she dreamt of.

The morning of February 24 started like any other day for Zlata until she received a phone call from her boyfriend. "Don't worry - the war has started," he said. Zlata heard no explosions, no planes, no sirens - nothing that would indicate that her world was about to change forever. However, the frantic movements of her parents, the sudden blaring of the television, and the ringing of the phone made it clear that something serious was happening.

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Zlata quickly turned to her school chat and realized the situation was dire. Her classmates were reporting sightings of helicopters and the first-ever sounding of sirens in her hometown of Obolon. The reality of the situation hit her hard, but Zlata knew she had to remain calm and assess the situation rationally. She started by asking herself practical questions: "Where are the documents? Where are the clothes? Where are the suitcases?"


With her mother's emotional response to the situation, Zlata knew she had to take charge and be the strong one in the family. And so, just a few hours later, she found herself scouring the internet for the map of shelters. Zlata knew that every second counts in times of crisis, and she was determined to be prepared for whatever lay ahead.

This moment marked the beginning of an extraordinary journey for Zlata that would test her courage, resilience, and determination to the limit. Despite the challenges, Zlata never lost hope and continued to push herself to achieve her dreams. Her story is a reminder of the strength of the human spirit in times of adversity.


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An underground parking lot was one of the few places where Zlata and her family could find shelter during the invasion. They spent their first few days in a nearby shelter, but the constant sound of car doors slamming and engines revving made it difficult to sleep. The room was also incredibly cold, and they had to use tires and blankets to make a makeshift bed.

On the third night, they decided to sleep in their car parked nearby. However, they were jolted awake by a loud explosion and a bright red sky. They quickly ran back to the shelter.

After a week, they decided to leave the city, but their old car would not take them far. They joined the crowds at the train station, where people with pets and suitcases scrambled to catch the next train. The family planned to go to Lviv but ended up boarding a train to Khmelnytskyi due to safety concerns.

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The train was crowded, and people constantly got on and off at the brief stops. Zlata met a man and his elderly mother who were also fleeing from Donbas, and they shared stories along the way. When they arrived in Khmelnytskyi, they had to spend the night at the station due to the curfew. They witnessed military vehicles being loaded onto nearby tracks.


The next morning, acquaintances took them to Lviv, where they bought a train ticket to Mukachevo. From there, the boy's parents drove them to a hotel in a small town near the border with Hungary.


However, the problems did not stop there. The very next day, the police conducted a raid on their hotel, looking for men to serve in the army. Zlata's parents and her boyfriend were also served with summonses. Since then, they have served in the army without any days off. In four months, they could spend only 3 days with their relatives, out of which one and a half was taken up by the road to and from home.


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Despite these challenges, Zlata excelled in her studies. She repeatedly won mathematics and linguistics Olympiads at school and was also the host of the school television program. She knows six languages and scored the highest possible on her final exams. Even before the war, Zlata had dreamed of studying in the USA, as many specialties were not taught in Ukraine. However, due to her family's deteriorating health, she had to give up this dream. Nevertheless, she tried to find the spirit of America in Ukraine.


Then, Zlata saw an announcement on LinkedIn about American University Kyiv offering IT and business management programs. Since the university was established in partnership with Arizona State University, students would have opportunities for internships in the US. However, the cost of education was $8,000 per year, which was unaffordable for Zlata's family due to the war and her father's mobilization.


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After discussing it with her family, Zlata submitted her application for help to cover her tuition fee partially.

The next day, Zlata received a call from a university representative who read her motivational letter and was inspired by her story. Since UA House and AUK have a long-term partnership, the representative reached out to the Ukrainian American House to share the touching story of the talented student. The charitable organization was impressed with her biography, skills, and willingness to get a higher education. Finally, she received wonderful news - she became the first scholarship recipient helped by UA House! Zlata’s dream came true thanks to the UA House and kind support of caring donors.


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UA HOUSE is a 501(c)3 registered non-profit organization (Registered Charity Number: C4181477) dedicated to raising awareness about Ukraine in the US and throughout the world and providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

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