skip to content
Primary navigation

Iryna Petrus

New Arrival Award

Community leader, advocate and Ukrainian

I have been serving as the community outreach manager for the Ukrainian American Community Center since November 2022. I hail from the western part of Ukraine and arrived in the United States just over a year ago due to the conflict in Ukraine.

When I first came to the United States, I experienced mixed emotions. I felt stressed, worried and unsafe due to the situation in my homeland. However, this changed thanks to the support I received from the community and the friendships I built 15 years ago when I was a student in the U.S. I was able to find strength and reassurance, believing that everything would eventually be fine.

To be completely honest, I never felt like a refugee when I fled Ukraine. This is because I had all the resources I needed upon my arrival in the U.S. Furthermore, I never felt like I needed to change who I am because the U.S. does not judge or ask you to alter your identity. It is indeed a land of opportunity where I always felt equal to others. I possess skills that allow me to support my community, and that's why I never considered myself a refugee; I had the necessary resources from the moment I left Ukraine. 

On the other hand, I've observed that many refugees face significant challenges, such as language barriers and feelings of undervaluation. But, in truth, everyone possesses hidden talents. From my personal experience, I view it not as a refugee experience but rather as connecting and collaborating with other organizations that support the Ukrainian people.

My definition of success combines collaboration with self-awareness in life. You achieve success when you are true to yourself and share that authenticity with the world through collaboration. I am grateful for everything I have and consider myself blessed to have the opportunity to give back. I aim to open my heart to others and let them know that Ukrainian people are some of the most hardworking individuals.

In conclusion, I would like to express how this country has provided me with immense opportunities, allowing me to return and do what I love. I came here 15 years ago as a student, and now, I am back to contribute to my community. If my soul has given me this opportunity, I will maximize it. Always be grateful for what you have and cultivate inner strength and peace; this is the path to success in life.

Iryna Petrus
back to top