KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For nearly two years, Ukrainian student Olga has been going to school in Kansas City, away from her mom. Their reunion was delayed because of the ongoing war in her home country.
“When I see Olga, I hug her and have some tears,” Olga’s mom Victoria said.
For 20 months, Olga and her mother have been over 5,000 miles apart. That was until last week.
“I was really happy to see her. It’s been such a long time, and I feel like I’ve grown up so much,” Olga said.
“At last – like I’ve done it. I don’t know how to explain,” Victoria said.
When Olga left home, she was in high school. Within the first several months of her study abroad program, Russia invaded Ukraine, leaving the teen and her family a world apart.
Victoria was grateful her daughter was safe here in Kansas City.
“I was calm and happy because my children are in safety. That’s why I was not afraid at all,” Victoria said.
Now Olga is headed into her second year of college.
“I am proud of Olga, especially that she’s starting at UMKC university and her first year was very very good,” Victoria said.
In the first year Olga attended classes at UMKC, not only did she succeed, she also exceeded expectations, earning a 4.0 GPA both semesters.
“It helps me excel here knowing what they’re doing there,” Olga said.
“I don’t think anyone would blame her if she said, ‘My life is on hold. My country’s all apart, and I can’t do anything, and I can’t go home.’ But she’s going on and doing things here for herself,” said Jeph BurroghsScanlon, Olga’s host parent.
But the clouds of war still hang over Olga’s country and her people are fighting for their lives and their homes.
“We can restore all. Ukraine, we rebuild our country but if you lose people…” Victoria said.
“When I hear my mom talk about it, it also makes me feel the same,” Olga said.
But Victoria is not only talking, she’s acting. She has helped fund an exhibit on the war crimes that have been committed in Ukraine.
That exhibit has been shown in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum, at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and at the United Nations Conference in New York. The group has also been asked to present in front of the United States Senate.
Olga and her mother will spend a few more days together before Victoria heads back home.
If you would like to help Olga while she remains here in Kansas City, her host family has set up a GoFundMe page.