Ukrainian student makes incredible three-day journey to attend Paisley graduation

Anna Konovalenko
-Credit: (Image: Submitted)

A determined student from Ukraine has made an epic three-day journey overcoming war-related disruption in order to attend her graduation ceremony in Paisley.

Anna Konovalenko joined hundreds of students at Paisley Abbey for the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) summer graduation ceremonies.

Due to the ongoing war, no flights leave the country – meaning the 21-year-old had to travel to the border with Poland by road.

Anna told the Paisley Daily Express : “It was not an easy journey.

“Even getting to the border under these circumstances is difficult. Less than 24-hours before the ceremony, I was trapped at the border and had no idea if I’d even make it.

“The university said I could graduate at any ceremony which I am very grateful for – but it means a lot to me to graduate alongside classmates who have become lifelong friends, and supported me during this time.”

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Anna had been living in Kyiv – her family then moved to a small town in the west of the country.

Anna said: “Even there we could not avoid the shelling. I really wanted to stay in Ukraine – but as the situation continued to escalate, it became clear that it was not safe to do so. I moved to Ireland, before seeking opportunities to study abroad.”

Anna joining a protest outside the Russian embassy in Edinburgh.
Anna joining a protest outside the Russian embassy in Edinburgh. -Credit:Mykyta Budnyk

This brought her to the University of the West of Scotland, where she opted to study a BA in Journalism – determined to document stories from across her home nation during war time, ensuring that they are told.

She added: “I knew that if I left the country, I wanted to do something useful to support those defending the country. This is why I decided to pursue a career in journalism.

“I was always aware that journalism was important, but the invasion of Ukraine highlighted that it was essential – not only in highlighting acts of bravery, but in ensuring the war remains in the public consciousness.

“It has been important to me to highlight what women have done to ensure economic growth in Ukraine during the war, how the conflict has impacted education and the environment. Journalism and journalists provide that platform.

“It’s also important to ensure that Ukraine is not defined by the war. Amazing things are still happening in the country every day.

"We have, for example, a vibrant arts sector and world class IT sector which have both continued to thrive.”

During her time in Scotland, Anna became involved with the Scot Baby Box appeal – collecting aid and donations for newborn babies in Ukraine. She also volunteered at a charity shop in Ayr, and continued to write about the situation in her home country.

After finishing her studies, Anna returned to Kyiv, and was initially unsure, due to the war, if she’d be able to return to Scotland for her graduation.

She added: “It was important for me to go home at this time – to show support for Ukraine. There was no question to me as to this being the right thing to do.

“It always feels good to come back, and remind myself just how beautiful Ukraine is. That’s something I want to share with the world – and the friends I’ve made at UWS.

“One day, I look forward to welcoming them here to visit – to see the countryside, to taste the food, to meet the wonderful people here and discover what Ukraine is really all about.

“UWS has offered great support.

" Everyone I met always showed their kindness. I feel like I’ve learned a lot, and I’m proud of graduating – but more than anything, I’m proud of my country.”

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