May 9, 2022
For BYU-Pathway Worldwide student Kateryna Nyporka, the Russia-Ukraine war started around 5:30 a.m. on February 24, 2022. “Like many in my country, I woke up to the sound of a big explosion. Later that day I found out that a Russian missile was shot down by our air defense system and pieces of it fell down around 100 meters (328 feet) from my apartment building. For the next two days, I didn’t sleep.”
President Dallin H. Oaks said during a BYU-Pathway devotional, “We live in challenging times: wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and the prospects of financial disasters.” Despite such a grim reality, Elder Oaks also offered these encouraging words, “Though men’s hearts are failing them, you should take heart. There have always been challenging times. We, the generations of your predecessors, have survived serious challenges, and so will you.”1
Moving forward with hope
With the war in Ukraine, BYU-Pathway students have indeed “take[n] heart.” Whether students have decided to stay in Ukraine, relocate, withdraw, or continue their studies, they have all embraced the future with hope. For Kateryna, that meant staying in her country.
“Despite difficult circumstances, I have never felt desperate or depressed,” she said. “I’m so inspired and lifted up by the people here. I know that Heavenly Father is here. We feel the support and prayers of all of the world. I see so many miracles happen and lives saved.”
Although she needed to stop taking courses last term, Kateryna plans to resume her studies when she can. “I know that my testimony about the gospel and my relationship with Heavenly Father have been my strength and helped me to cope with fear and hardships.”
Eugene Konyk withdrew from his BYU-Pathway courses and joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine as soon as the war began. This is the second time he’s put his studies on hold to defend his country, but he still maintains hope.
He said, “What helps me the most is personal prayer and the opportunity to study the scriptures. I am consoled by the hope that the war will soon end and that I will be able to see my wife and children again. I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be together again, even if I don’t return from the war.”
Help from BYU-Pathway
At BYU-Pathway President Brian Ashton’s inauguration, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “The way of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only answer to bringing peace and harmony. … [W]hatever the problem — an education, especially an education in discipleship of the Lord Jesus Christ, should be a central, majestic part of any solution.”2
BYU-Pathway is making accommodations for students in Ukraine to help be a part of their solution. For many students like Kateryna and Eugene who were — understandably — not able to participate, BYU-Pathway gave them the option to withdraw without receiving a “W” or a failing grade on their transcripts, as well as a full tuition refund. Service missionaries and mentors are working closely with individual students to help them decide what is best for them in these unique circumstances.
Henry Kosak, a BYU-Pathway international area manager who also works with Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, has been helping refugees in Poland and shared this experience: “There were two moms with six children coming to Poland, and my wife and I couldn’t find them. At that time thousands of refugees were at the train station. I prayed to Heavenly Father and just said, ‘You have to help me find them.’ Within 10 minutes we found them two streets away. They had little luggage, but it was heavy. With six little children, I don’t know how they did it, but they must have special strength.”
He and many other volunteers are helping some of the 2.8 million refugees find shelter in Poland, France, and Germany, even buying suitcases to help the people of Ukraine feel like travelers instead of refugees.
Disciple leaders continue forward in faith
Despite the war, some students felt it was best for them to continue their studies. Of the 57 students from Ukraine who enrolled in Winter Semester 2022 (Jan.–Apr.), 36 were able to complete courses — most with As and Bs. For Spring Semester 2022 (Apr.–July), 31 of those students registered to continue courses, and 11 new students enrolled.
Alla Delton, a BYU-Pathway mentor for students in Ukraine, said, “One of the things BYU-Pathway focuses on is building the community, and there’s no better time for that than now. The students in Ukraine are using their skills to better provide for their family and can use them to rebuild their community and country.”
Alina Zalozna is one student who is using her skills to help. She felt it was right to finish the semester and decided to stay in Ukraine with her husband. With her background in software engineering, she will most likely join the war effort alongside him. She said, “Every day we hear air danger sirens. I go with my husband, who is a BYU-Idaho student, down to the vault…. Our city is safe, but war is so close.”
Despite her circumstances, Alina completed the semester. “Life goes on,” she said. “Studying helps to distract a little bit from the horror that is happening in my country. And as long as I have the opportunity, I’ll continue to work, study, and volunteer.”
Another student, Vlad, enrolled in BYU-Pathway in January 2022 after returning from a full-time mission. When the war began, he drove a bus back and forth from the Ukraine border to Poland, translating for refugees. Despite his service, he diligently attended his gatherings and turned in assignments during the winter semester.
Even with the disasters and conflicts permeating the world today, BYU-Pathway offers a beacon of hope to students. Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, “There seems to be no end to the good that can come from being a part of BYU-Pathway Worldwide.”3 As students grow as disciple leaders, they have and will continue to flood the earth with that same hope as they lead others to the Savior.
Contributions from Jacob Orse
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