fbpx Skip to main content
Client Stories

Ukrainian Student On Life in Minnesota

Ukrainian Arrival Adjusts to Life in Minnesota

As Ukrainians fled the Russian invasion of 2022, many found themselves beginning again in Minnesota. Among those is Svitlana, a student of the Institute’s first Entrepreneurship class. As the second year of the war in Ukraine approached, Svitlana shared about how she’s coping, how she’s embracing life in the Twin Cities, and how she’s contributing her skills and talents to her new community.

When Svitlana First Arrived

When she arrived in Minnesota, Svitlana tried to fully embrace America and not think about Ukraine or all that she left behind — including her family — because it was too painful. She told herself, “It’s okay, it’s a challenge. I’m starting from scratch — my new life. Let’s go, girl. But no. It doesn’t work like that.”

“Just imagine, you had your life, your whole life your friends, the acquaintances, the people, the culture, the movies, books — everything. You had your own home, apartment, car, and now, it’s disappeared,” Svitlana said.

“You don’t have to suffer by yourself, alone. You can share with someone. People will help you,”

Living a New Life

 One of the ways she and her husband have coped with their displacement and the ongoing war in Ukraine is by signing up for classes at the International Institute of Minnesota.

Both marketing professionals, they have completed the Institute’s College Readiness Academy and Professional Leadership Training. Now they’re part of the Institute’s new Entrepreneurship Class, where they’re focusing on growing their marketing business.

“It was a great class because this class gave me the full understanding of what the American workspace is about,” Svitlana said about the Professional Leadership Training. She added that the valuable skills she learned included what to expect when interviewing for a job, about workplace emotional intelligence, and how to build relationships.

Svitlana and her husband now have four marketing clients — a job she loves because it helps other businesses find success.

Making Connections and Looking Ahead

Another perk of coming to the Institute regularly, Svitlana said, it how helpful it has been to meet other Ukrainians displaced by the war.

“You don’t have to suffer by yourself, alone. You can share with someone. People will help you,” she said. “This is most valuable thing to understand, that you are not alone.”

She no longer pushes forward without thinking about her old life in Ukraine, the way that she did when she first arrived. Now, Svitlana realizes, “You can’t forget yourself. You just have to combine all the things.”

She began reminding herself, “You are a Ukrainian girl. You have all your culture and history. Figure out how to combine it with American life. This is what I’m doing now. I’m trying to open my heart.”

Interview by Zinzile Sibanda. Written by Alisa Blackwood, Communications Manager at the International Institute of Minnesota. Alisa’s work at the Institute comes after years of writing for publications and organizations such as The Associated Press, O, The Oprah Magazine, TravelandLeisure.com, Health and more. She hopes her writing about Institute clients, students and staff bring to life the stories behind the news headlines.