By Brian Besch
A special guest speaker highlighted Thursday’s meeting of the Rotary Club. Recent Livingston High graduate and Ukrainian exchange student Daniil Rusanyuk, along with his host mother, Kelly Shepard, spoke to those in attendance.
The pair gave insight on the challenges the war in Ukraine has placed on Rusanyuk’s family, as well as the obstacles for furthering his education.
“Everything was all good until February. February hit, and it was like a disaster,” Shepard said of the war beginning. “He has been accepted to college, but now he has a problem with financial aid. He cannot even apply for financial aid unless he has asylum or refugee status. He cannot get that status until he gets everything approved by the government, and we know how long the government takes.”
An A/B honor roll student in his senior year at Livingston, Rusanyuk has been accepted to attend school at Stephen F. Austin University, However, the school in Nacogdoches has a few demands before he begins classes.
“SFA will not allow him to start school until he has a bank statement showing $30,000 in it. They want a full year of tuition,” Shepard said. “We were hoping we could get by with one semester of room and board, which would be about $15,000, but no, they want the whole $30,000.”
There is currently a GoFundMe account for Rusanyuk (see bottom of article), which will remain up until they can apply for financial aid. His parents are not able to send money currently. His mother has escaped the country to Italy, while his father returned to the capital city of Kiev.
Shepard describes her new addition to the family as intelligent, a strict scheduler and very goofy. He speaks English, German, Italian, Russian and Ukranian. He has a J-1 Visa that most exchange students receive. Rusanyuk is trying to have that changed to an F-1 Visa, which would allow him to pursue an education. He has filed for temporary protective status, given when a country is unable to handle the return of its nationals safely. His J-1 Visa is set to expire on the last day of August.
“If we don’t have anything by Aug. 31, I don’t know what to do,” Shepard said. “Because, if he goes back to Ukraine, he’ll join the war. In January, they (Ukrainian officials) came knocking at his parents’ door, looking for him. He had to show proof that he was in the U.S. studying. That’s why I’m trying to keep him here as long as I can.”
Ukraine has a law in place during war that does not allow men aged 18-60 to leave the country, instead requiring them to participate.
Rusanyuk grew up playing ice hockey, finished musical school two years ago for piano, and enjoys activities like fishing. He played tennis and took part in theatre at Livingston High. He hopes to study construction in college, eventually going back to Ukraine, starting a business with his father, who is also in construction, to help rebuild the country.
To contribute to Rusanyuk’s college until he is able to receive financial aid, go to gofundme.com and click on the magnifying glass. Provide the name Kelly Shepard or the name Daniil Rusanyuk in the space provided and you will be taken to his page.