Updated: Mar 12
In a world of unrest between Russia and Ukraine, Yelyzaveta Pinchuk, senior student, explains her experience growing up in Ukraine until November 2020 and traveling to the U.S. a little over a year ago. This West High senior was born on April 24, 2003 in Donetsk, Ukraine on the eastern side near the Russian border. She says, “There has been a war atmosphere since 2014. My mom and I used to wake up at 5 a.m. and hear bombings and gunfire.” Part of her Ukrainian family sides with Ukraine while the other sides with Russia due to living so close to the border.
Pinchuk’s native language is Ukrainian; however, all schools in Ukraine teach English and German. She also speaks Russian due to living on the border of Russia and Ukraine. Pinchuk credits Youtube and Netflix for learning English so well. She follows the motto with her language, “Fake it til you make it.” Although, her language skills are phenomenal according to her teachers.
Before coming to America with her mother, Pinchuk traveled on a bus to Kyiv (capital of Ukraine). This was a complicated process to sneak through borders being shut down due to COVID and potential war. Pinchuk suffered from COVID while being stuck on a bus for over 24 hours to escape to the Ukraine capital.
Pinchuk’s sister is five years older than her. Her sister moved out when she was 16 to obtain her high school diploma in Kyiv. Now, her sister stays in Poland for safety during the war. Pinchuk’s grandparents still live in Eastern Ukraine in a shelter due to the situation between Russia and Ukraine.
Pinchuk’s mother, Elena Zain, met Pinchuk's father, Dr. Harry Zain, in 2019 and later moved to the United States in November of 2020 and got married in January of 2021. They have lived together since arriving in the United States and have had many great memories together. Pinchuk shares, “I love him very much and appreciate what he’s doing for us. He’s showing me a lot of interesting places around and helping me to figure out a lot of things that I didn’t know about.”
In December 2020, Morristown-West welcomed it’s new Ukrainian student! Pinchuk says, “Schools in Ukraine have a mixture of grades. An eleventh grade classroom might have a sixth grade classroom on the other side of the wall.” They do not have separate elementary, middle, and high school buildings. School in Ukraine starts every Sept. 1 and finishes May 28 every year. Students do not have the option of picking their elective courses or schedules. Academic classes are assigned to each student.
On her thoughts of America, Pinchuk remarks, “People are really friendly here” and “smiley.” She loves pasta, and Olive Garden is her favorite restaurant. While Pinchuck thinks Coke and Pepsi taste the same in the U.S., she says, "Sprite does not taste good," here in America. Last summer, Pinchuk visited the Smoky Mountains on a hike and loved it.
In Pinchuk’s opinion, she shares, “Putin wants to build the U.S.S.R. all over again and control everything. He doesn’t want Ukraine to join NATO.” Until 2014, people could travel between Russia and the Ukraine freely, but they are longer able to.
The things that make her the most homesick for Ukraine are her family and food. Pinchuk shares that her favorite kind of chips cannot be found in the U.S. When asked one thing Pinchuk does not like about America, she shared how walking is not common here compared to how it is in Ukraine. In Ukraine, walking is more common because most can’t afford cars. In the south of the U.S. “walking is kind of looked down upon”. One day she and her mom had walked to Ingles, and they had experienced rude looks from by passers. Also, students must be 18 before being able to obtain a license in Ukraine.
In her spare time, Pinchuk cooks and bakes. “That’s how I show my love to people,” she mentions. Pinchuk has over 10,000 Tik Tok followers on her Russian account. She studies a lot in Algebra, and Jennifer Murphy, Algebra teacher at Morristown-West, is her favorite teacher. Murphy shares, “It’s been really neat to get to know her in the last two years. She is such a great role model for other students her age. I am excited to see where her adventure takes her!” Pinchuk’s Web. Development teacher, Amy Whaley, also shared, “Yelyzaveta has a contagious, positive attitude with excitement to learn. She actually teaches me new information every day, and I am so blessed to have her in class.”