Immigrating to the United States has shaped life for one student.

A child, Yelyzaveta Burlutska came to Kentucky with her mother for a better life for her and to support her family, who remained in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Her experiences as a Ukrainian-American have since impacted every aspect of her life and made her stronger.

“Eastern European women are strong. We fight for our families, and we stand for what we believe in,” said Burlutska, a senior at Morehead State University. “We want to seek a better life and that’s what we’re here for, and we’ve never given up. We remember our roots and that our families were starved out, and that’s why we’re here.”

However, Burlutska struggled with the language barrier as a child in the Marshall County school system, and could not communicate.

“I was at one point classified as special needs because of the language barrier which is something that I’m touchy with because I don’t believe that ESL [English as a second language] students should be treated as special needs,” she said.  “That’s why I became an ESL student teacher for my junior and senior year in high school, where I taught Ukrainian students in Jessamine County.”

Burlutska continued to help others in Kentucky, including tutoring Ukrainian Pentecostal refugees in Nicholasville and raised money for those affected by a Marshall County school shooting her junior year of high school.

“One of my classmates that I grew up with did get shot in the chest, and he thankfully made a recovery, but that is something that we never expected,” she said. “That is a tiny town. We’re a family.”

Burlutska said a major point in her life as a Ukranian-American was when she and her mother became United States citizens in 2015 after seven years of paperwork, expenses and requirements.

“The immigration system, to do it the right way, the legal way, is very, very difficult,” said Burlutska. “It was an emotional time because we had fought for this for so many years and now, we finally got it. We are here. We are citizens.”

Burlutska has continued to embrace her Ukrainian culture while educating her American peers about stereotypes through her experiences.

“People see my name and they realize, ‘Oh she’s eastern European,’ and the topic of mail-order brides come around,” said Burlutska. “I let them say it, I laugh with them but then I like to inform them.” 

Life in Kharkiv, Ukraine
Yelyzaveta Burlutska, a senior MSU student, came to Kentucky with her mother for a better life for her and to support her family, who remained in Kharkiv, Ukraine.