It will soon be two months that Ukrainian student Tetiana Moskalenko is in Vilnius. A Psychology student at Mykolas Romeris University, she knew early on that she wanted to study Psychology. Her mother, an English teacher, helped polish her English language skills, but still she was not prepared for the abrupt departure from her home country – Ukraine in February, just one day after the war started. Her family fled to Poland watching the tanks flood the streets of her native Kiev. She talks about life in Lithuania and studies in this interview.
You and your mother and siblings were living in Poland. Why did you decide to study in Lithuania?
- I choose Mykolas Romeris University because I liked the Psychology programme that was offered. It is so interesting. The fall semester has started, but I can‘t wait for the next semester to begin. The lecturers are fantastic. I really love the lectures of Psychology Assoc. Prof. Antanas Valantinas and his “Introduction to General Psychology.“ You can tell he really is excited and likes his subject. I can‘t wait until his next lecture! It is also good that Lithuania is not far from Poland. I can spend time with my family during the holidays and return here to the University easily. I like the climate here in Vilnius, which is similiar to Ukraine.
Where did you find out about Mykolas Romeris University?
-I found a website with many universities and programmes listed. I found it online and started scrolling and searching and when I got to Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius I found a Psychology programme in English. For now, the University is waiving tuition for students from Ukraine who maintain a high grade point average. I was uploading my application to MRU and found out I was admitted. Then I received information that because I am Ukrainian and due to the War, I do not have to pay any tuition fees. I will only have to pay tuition, if I fail my exams. I will study hard and make sure I pass everything.
You recently – this summer graduated from high school in Ukraine? How do you find University life in Vilnius?
- I like Mykolas Romeris Univesity because it is a very international university. I can meet and get to know students from all over the world. The buildings are nice and the infrastructure is fairly new. The Library here is also amazing with the huge amount of books, research journals and other study materials. My Library back home was poorly-furnished and small in comparison. The MRU Library is conducive to learning.
You lived for almost 6 months in Poland, attended a Polish school for some months. What differences do you see between Poland and Lithuania?
- I like Lithuania more than Poland because more people speak Russian in Lithuania than in Poland. When I was in Poland, I only heard Polish all the time. Here in Lithuania, I understand that I am in a foreign country when I hear the Lithuanian language. I am planning to study Lithuanian so I can talk to the local people. But, I know that if I ask an older person something in Russian, they can understand me. I like living in Vilnius. You see I was born in the capital of another country – Kyiv. I am now living in the capital of another European country. Vilnius is very beautiful, especially the Old Town. Some parts of the Old Town in Vilnius remind me of old cities in Ukraine.
Do you plan to return to Ukraine at sometime in the future?
- That is honestly a very hard question to answer. Before the War started, I couldn‘t even think of studying abroad. I am now more open to everything. Of course, I hope to return, if the War ends. I would like to continue Master‘s Degree studies abroad perhaps in Lithuania or somewhere else in Europe. I have bad memories of Feb. 25th, when the War was beginning. I was sitting in the basement of my house and at 5 am there was a very loud explosion. I heard in the news that part of a missile landed on a neighboring house, next to ours. The house is still standing, but has no windows and has a black surface. Unfortunately, there are still people living there among the ruins.
Your family left Kyiv immediately when the War started?
-The War started Feb. 24th and we packed our belongings, took our bags out into the car, piled in and drove away on Feb. 25th. At such a moment you don‘t think about your house or your belongings.Everything you need can be put in one backpack and everything else, it doesn‘t really matter. We were lucky because we had relatives abroad near Gdynia. We knew we were going to go to Poland, but it still was a very exhausting trip. Because there were many roads closed, from Kyiv we went about 400 km to Ternopil. It took us more than 20 hours and two of those hours were just to get out of Kyiv. When leaving my home city, we saw a column of tanks on the road going one-by-one. It was very scary. Petrol was a problem because we were running out. We had to stand in line for an hour and a half and then we could only buy 20 liters. From Ternopil we headed to Romania, then Hungary and Slovakia until we reached Poland some three days later. Romanians treated us very well offering McDonald‘s “Happy Meals“ to the children and offering us places to stay in their homes. I was amazed by how many people were willing to help us, Ukrainians.
How are you coping now six months after leaving Kyiv?
- It is still very hard. I‘m upset and angry that this happened. I know that there are Russians that understand what is happening. For meit is very hard to leave my country, to leave everything and flee abroad. But, because of the War I am studying now in Lithuania. Hopefully, I will get my diploma from this European university. We Ukrainians never lose hope. We hope...we know that everything will be fine. We are Ukrainians and Europeans are helping us financially, with military support and even meeting us at the border of their countries and providing us with food, shelter, lodging. This is the European spirit. For this, we Ukrainians are grateful.