She is now a researcher at the Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) Environmental Management LAB. She said there were many firsts for her in Vilnius including riding in a hot air balloon. She expressed gratitude to Lithuanians and MRU‘s academic community for the outpouring of support for Ukraine and its people. She discusses her experiences in this article.

- What did you know about Vilnius and/or Lithuania before coming here in 2019?

- Before coming to Vilnius, I knew just general things and a bit about our common history and Lithuania’s great past. Coming here showed me that although it became smaller geographically, but culturally, spiritually, and economically, Lithuania is a great country now with an even more promising future. You know, when I was a kid, I dreamed of living in the forest. My dream came true because now I am living in a city – Vilnius, which is in a forest.

- What is your most memorable impression during your time at Vilnius MRU?

- In these last four years in Vilnius, I had a lot of beautiful moments and I tried a lot of new things. For the first time in my life, I flew up in the sky on an air balloon. In Vilnius, for the first time, I was really down, when my heart got badly broken.

At MRU, the most impressive for me are the people. I met a lot of people from all over the world that made me much richer and more open minded than before. Some of them, like MRU Professor Paulo Pereira, really inspired me and made me look at life differently. That’s exactly what education should be about: inspiration, growth, and motivation for becoming your best self for the common good. Being just a knowledgeable lecturer is not enough for this. You should first be a human being with a heart big enough for sharing kindness, love and empathy.

- What are the differences between your home city in Ukraine and Vilnius?

- My native city Chernivtsi in Ukraine is smaller than Vilnius. There are about 265,000 people living there. As for the differences, I can say that we don’t have such huge shopping malls and different brands of products. My home city is not as green as Vilnius and unfortunately the most upsetting for me is the situation with litter recycling. I hope after the war in Ukraine, the recycling system will reach a European level. Also, I can say that my city, as well as Vilnius, is very beautiful. Our old town is very similar to a European one. And it’s also a very international city. We have a lot of ethnic minorities and plenty of international students from less developed countries. I miss my home town and I really hope that the War will not reach it and it will remain the way I remember it.

- Do you travel to Ukraine to visit your family?

- Yes, I have gone back to visit Chernitvtsi to see my parents and brother. It’s a 24-hour grueling bus ride from Vilnius, but it’s good to visit with family. The worst thing is the problem with electricity in Ukraine. Some days the electricity only works for 3-4 hours. If you don’t have electricity, you don’t have water and heat. And then there are the missiles. When the air sirens go off, you have to find a place to hide. You never know when or where the missiles will hit. I am grateful to the people of Lithuania and MRU for the outpouring of support. I am very grateful for all the aid and help given to the Ukrainian people. I was very impressed with the amount of support Lithuanians have offered Ukraine and its people.

- You are a polyglot. How many languages do you speak?

- I am of Romanian descent. I attended Romanian schools until the age of 10 and I speak Romanian. However, I have never been to Romania. I was born in Ukraine. Ukrainian culture is something I was raised in and where I feel comfortable. I speak Ukrainian, Russian, English and some Spanish. I will be learning Lithuanian as well.

- What are your plans for the future? Will you be pursuing a Master's Degree?

- At the moment I am planning to continue my research work at the MRU Environmental LAB where I can learn from the best researchers in the field of environmental science. I will be working in a new sustainability department at the university. And, of course, I will continue my studies. I will pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Relations Management. In September I plan to take classes in Lithuanian. I feel that now I am in the right place, at the right time, surrounded by the right people. I am very excited about my future in a beautiful city – Vilnius. For now, it is my home. I feel lucky that I live here in Lithuania. This is probably the best thing that has happened to me in my life.

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