WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – While school is starting back up across the United States, war still wages on across Ukraine, devastating many cities and towns.
In the midst of the combat and destruction, Purdue University has launched an initiative to help Ukrainian scholars directly impacted by the war continue their academic studies and research. According to the university, the program is the largest to scale of any similar program nationwide.
Purdue now welcomes 20 Ukrainian scholars, including a doctoral student named Valeria. She asked FOX59 not to include her last name, as her family still remains in the war-torn nation.
Valeria said she is excited to be in Indiana, but she said her emotions are also a bit torn.
“It’s mixed because I should be happy,” she said. “I dreamed about coming to the U.S. I like traveling. Some years ago I dreamed of studying abroad, and I really wanted to collect new experiences and how to do research and science abroad, not in Ukraine.”
While her dream is now fulfilled, she still worries about those she left behind.
“My family is unsafe, my country is in the war, and I know that many people don’t have food, medicine, or basic needs of drink and water, or they are just unsafe because every second a missile, a rocket, or a bomb can reach your house or you,” Valeria described.
Valeria said she lived in Kyiv for several years as she studied at university.
“It hurts me a lot because when I see pictures and videos from the cities I visited or lived, or I know some people from there and seeing what has happened and how Russians damaged it,” she described.
Purdue faculty developed the idea to help scholars like Valeria back in March and April, and it quickly blossomed into a university wide effort. University leaders said they felt obligated to step in and help Ukrainians.
“Although it’s only 20 people, it’s still going to make a significant difference in their lives,” said Michael Brzezinski, dean of International Programs at Purdue University. “So, making a difference in people’s lives, that’s what we are about, and we are glad to do it.”
The university now provides a sense of refuge, and a chance for scholars to continue with their studies and research.
“We’re hoping that we can give them a safe haven to continue their research and studies,” Brzezinski said. “Then, I’m sure they long to go back to their homeland as soon as possible.”
In the meantime, the sights and sounds of war still stay in mind for some of those scholars.
“Every day I heard sirens, at least one per day,” Valeria described. “Now, even if I hear alarms, fire trucks, or a first aid, the first idea that comes to my mind is a siren that Russia’s attacking the US.”
While no end in sight can be worrisome to students like Valeria, she said she feels a sense of comfort as she begins her time in Indiana.
“We know that we are not alone in this world and all democratic on all freedom countries support us,” Valeria said. “We will definitely win, the question is when. “
And when that time comes, they will take a cherished experience back with them. Valeria said she looks forward to returning to a war-free Ukraine, and helping share what she has learned in the U.S. with her home country.
Purdue’s scholar program is one year, but an extension may be possible depending on the circumstances in Ukraine. According to the university, visiting scholars would receive a monthly stipend, plus financial assistance for spouses or children under 21.