Ukranian Love

One Ashville woman’s heart is for the Ukranian people.

Katherine Michalak, a 2009 graduate of Chautauqua Lake Central School, is planning to make her third trip to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, in August.

During Michalak’s senior year at Geneva College in Pennsylvania, she elected to travel to Ukraine to complete her student teaching.

“I was studying secondary biology education,” Michalak said. “My only opportunity to study abroad was to travel for my student teaching.”

Among her other options, she was interested in traveling to Ukraine.

“I spent two months, January and February of 2013, at a small K-12 international Christian school in Kiev with 120 students,” Michalak said. “It was an English-speaking school, with missionaries’ children, children of ambassadors and embassy employees and children of businessmen.”

According to Michalak, of the three international schools in Kiev, the school she taught at was the only Christian school.

“At first, I didn’t want to be a teacher, I wanted to be a forest ranger … to work outdoors,” Michalak said.

“But after being there, I fell in love with (teaching) and the kids,” she continued.

After returning to Geneva College to complete her senior year in February 2013, Michalak returned to Kiev in August for nearly 10 months as a missionary.

In October, discussions about Ukraine joining the European Union picked up. By February, protests in Kiev became violent between protesters and the Ukranian government.

“The Maidan Revolution was right in our backyard,” Michalak said. “I wore a fur jacket and a Ukranian scarf when I went out, but we were never in danger there. I lived away from the center of town.”

Michalak said the United States Embassy and the State Department alerted her about the protests, but the protests were mostly nonviolent.

“In Kiev, it’s very peaceful,” she said, noting that there was only one specifically violent day in February. “Now, the fighting is in east Ukraine.”

She traveled back to the states in May, with plans to return to Ukraine again in August.

“My mom, dad and sister are very supportive, but they still worry and want me to be safe,” Michalak said. “But this is where I’m called, and I absolutely love my job.”

Michalak is committed to one more year in the Ukraine as a missionary, for which she raises her own funds by speaking at churches.

“As I tell my students, I don’t foresee myself living in the United States long-term, I truly love working with third-culture kids,” Michalak said, explaining that they are children who have grown up in a culture outside of their parents’ culture.

While abroad, Michalak has visited other cities including Budapest and Vienna.

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