UCI professor hopes to offer sanctuary to Ukrainian scholars
It's been 20 years since professor Iryna Zenyuk left Ukraine, but even as time passes all she remembers is the peaceful childhood she had.
"It was very peaceful," said the UC Irvine engineering professor. "Very nice childhood that I had in Ukraine."
But those memories of peace have disappeared amid a Russian invasion that continues to leave nothing but destruction and death in its wake.
"This is the war that took away all of those things that were so precious to me," she said.
Not one to stand idly by, Zenyuk looked for any way to help those attempting to flee the devastating war.
"I can help a fellow scientist," said Zenyuk. "This is the least I can do."
Recently, Zenyuk launched a $100,000 fundraising campaign to make UCI the host for at least four Ukrainian scholars and their families.
"If the Green Corridor opens they can go to western Ukraine," she said. "From western Ukraine, they can cross either to Poland or Romania or other European country and from there they can fly."
Last year, UCI was able to move five refugee scholars from Afghanistan in with hosts through the "Scholars At Risk."
"The last two arrived a week and two weeks ago," she said "They are here! Physically!"
To help with the fundraiser, the university said it will match donations up to $150,000 and will accept scholars from various disciplines. Zenyuk hopes this action will rally other UC schools to also support the program.
"The refugee crisis now it is in Ukraine," she said. "What's going to be next year? Two years from now? We would love to have more of an institutional commitment to such programs."
Zenyuk hopes that this act of kindness will leave a lasting impact.
"For now this is an opportunity for them to come here to continue their research and continue their scientific activities until the war ends," she said.
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