Just two years ago, Kateryna Kashyrina was a 15-year-old studying pre-law at the National University Odesa Academy of Law in Odesa, Ukraine. She was also training with the hope of making the Women’s National Swimming team and competing for her country in the 2024 Olympics.

When war broke out in February 2022, Kateryna’s entire world changed. Her family was faced with an unthinkable decision: leave their homeland or stay and risk being victims of the conflict. “We hid in our basement for seven days, not knowing whether we would be able to flee or forced to stay,” Kateryna recalled. “It was so dangerous.”  As Russian missiles rained down among the homes in her community, Kateryna and her family decided to leave the country they loved.

Kateryna and her family fled to Greece, where they found safety with some friends who lived there. The rapid turn of events left Kateryna in a daze, and her world was turned upside down. She no longer felt any desire to swim competitively, and her dreams of becoming an attorney now seemed impossible.

Her older sister lived in the United States at the time, and as the trauma of her flight from her homeland began to subside, Kateryna began wondering if there might a possibility to continue her studies at a university in America.

While searching online, she stumbled upon ACU’s website, learning about the university for the first time. She was attracted to the unique Christian mission of the school, as well as the fact that it had a swim team. So, she emailed the head swimming coach, Brad Hering. Unbeknownst to Kateryna, Coach Hering had been praying for a practical way to help victims of the war in Ukraine. After receiving her email, he was filled with compassion and a sense that the Lord was answering his prayer.

Coach Hering got right to work helping Kateryna navigate the admissions and financial aid process. However, even though Kateryna qualified for one of ACU’s highest academic scholarships, there was still a financial gap that her refugee family could not afford to bridge. Miraculously, just two days prior to the deadline for her to enroll in the fall semester, Kateryna received an unexpected grant from a friend and supporter of the ACU swim program.  She and her family were overjoyed upon hearing the news of God’s provision, and were overcome with gratitude and hope.

Upon arriving at ACU from Greece, Kateryna experienced an outpouring of love and friendliness from her new classmates.

Members of the swim team and other ACU students rallied around Kateryna, welcoming her to the United States and offering to help her with whatever she needed.

Now a sophomore at ACU, Kateryna is humbled and delighted by the miracles God has provided. Her passion for swimming has been reignited, and she is achieving success in the pool and the classroom.

Her trials and hardships have molded her into a dedicated and tough young woman with a deep faith in God. Coach Hering noted, “When I give (the swimmers) killer sets, Kateryna always says, ‘Thank you so much, Coach,’ while everyone [else] goes, ‘That was the hardest workout of my life!”  Kateryna’s drive for excellence extends into everything she does, whether studying at school, training in the water, or serving the Lord.

Former Olympic Training Pool

Back in Ukraine, Kateryna sees God’s faithfulness amid the chaos. While missiles have reduced her former Olympic training pool to rubble (above), her grandma, who still lives in Ukraine, remains safe and healthy. However, the toll the war has taken on her community has been significant. Soon after her family fled, Kateryna’s home was hit by a Russian rocket.  The only remnants were two framed items – “a picture of God and a photo of my family,” noted Kateryna.

Today, Kateryna is studying political science and plans to attend law school and become an attorney.  She feels called to fight for justice for Ukraine and its citizens.  “I know that the war will not stop… tomorrow,” she acknowledges. “I feel like it [won’t] stop even… in one year. It looks like it could be for such a long time.” But Kateryna is taking the long view, taking advantage of the opportunity God gave her to come to the United States and study at ACU to equip her to make a difference in her home country in the future.

Kateryna has been inspired by Jeremiah 29:11-13, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Since fleeing Ukraine two years ago, her life’s direction has been in God’s hands. And she is resting in His promises to her, her family, and her country.