Student from Ukraine Joins Class of 2026

Meet Serhii Kuzmin Jr., a member of The University of Scranton’s class of 2026 from Ukraine.
Eighteen-year-old Serhii Kuzmin Jr. from Kharkiv, Ukraine, arrives on the campus of The University of Scranton as a member of the Jesuit school’s class of 2026. He will major in computer science.
Eighteen-year-old Serhii Kuzmin Jr. from Kharkiv, Ukraine, arrives on the campus of The University of Scranton as a member of the Jesuit school’s class of 2026. He will major in computer science.

Serhii Kuzmin Jr. completed his high school studies in Ukraine in 2021 and spent a gap year searching for a school in the United States to fulfill his dream of attending college in America. He found a fit to cultivate his love of philosophy grounded within a Catholic tradition at The University of Scranton.

Then, he was awakened by loud noises in the early morning hours of February 24. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had begun and everything else stopped.

For three days, he and his parents sheltered in his home in Kharkiv, deciding it was too dangerous to try to escape their city as it was being attacked by Russian forces. On the fourth night, he and his parents packed what they could fit into their car and drove with a small group of close relatives to a village in central Ukraine away from the invading forces. There they began to make arrangements to escape to Germany.

He and his parents stayed there for three weeks, as they secured documents verifying Serhii’s exemption from military service and other permissions needed to leave Ukraine and attain refugee status in Germany. Serhii and his parents were able to safely cross the border by car to Germany, where they were given lodging in a one-room World War II bomb shelter.

With access to the internet again and encouragement from his parents, Serhii renewed his plans to pursue his dream of attending college in the United States. He regained contact with Stacey Urgento, assistant director of graduate admissions at The University of Scranton, who was able to confirm his admittance to Scranton’s class of 2026 and that the University would be able to provide financial assistance to cover his education expenses.

Although he was moving ahead with his dream, his thoughts and concern for his family and friends in Ukraine engulfed him. Russians had advanced to his grandparents’ village and he was worried about their safety.

“The Russian soldiers who occupied my grandparents’ town cut off all humanitarian aid,” said Serhii. His grandparents survived the occupation eating potatoes and other foods they were able to store before the town was invaded. His grandparents were spared the further atrocities committed by Russian occupiers that occurred in Bucha and other towns.

Serhii sees his effort in the war as one of communication. He wants to share the awful truth about what is happening in his country, saying accounts by media and on the internet are not accurate.

It is a battle for which he is well suited.

Serhii studied English in public school since the 1st grade. He noticed, however, that when he was in 8th grade, his friends’ skills in English were out pacing his.

“I decided to change all of my electronic devices to English in order to force myself to learn the language,” said Serhii. It worked. He is now fluent in English.

His mother, a teacher who is highly educated with a master’s degree, introduced and encouraged his interest in philosophy. That interest, and his Orthodox Christian religion, in turn led him to look at Catholic, Jesuit schools in America, eventually finding The University of Scranton. His mother also preferred Scranton to colleges located in larger cities.

Although she is glad he will attend The University of Scranton, she and her husband will miss Serhii greatly. They are trying to find a sponsor in the United States or Canada so that they can move closer to him.

Serhii’s Mission

Intelligent, self-motivated and resilient, Serhii, who will major in computer science at Scranton, continues to move forward with his life and his mission to tell others of the awful realities of the senseless destruction of the war in Ukraine.

The school Serhii attended in Kharkiv was hit multiple times by missiles.

“The front section of the school is completely gone. The two sides of the building are badly damaged. Basically, the school is destroyed,” said Serhii, who said homes, theaters, malls, museums, schools and universities were devastated in the attack.

“The only reason my parents and I could think of for bombing schools and museums would be to try to completely wipe out a culture,” said Serhii. “Homes could be rebuilt, but it is much more difficult to rebuild a museum, or a school, or a university. You need the community to do that.”

The village where his grandparents live is now protected by Ukraine forces. Yet he has other family members and friends in Russian occupied territories of Ukraine where communication is completely cut off.

“I hope that by talking about how this war destroyed villages and towns, and killed, hurt and damaged the lives of so many people, maybe in the future, people will be more reasonable and peaceful and others will not have to go through what we experienced” said Serhii.

Serhii’s contribution to Ukraine’s fight has begun on Ukraine’s Independence Day.

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