By Curt Swarm
Mariia, Olena and Sviatoslav (or Sviat, pronounced “Fiat”) were in a quandary. All three are excellent students and college-bound, but because of the war, their lives are torn apart. Their fathers are off fighting, and their siblings and mothers are scattered all over, some in other countries. These are teenagers, mind you, but they realized they had to take charge. They went to niche.com and searched for schools. They knew they wanted to go to the United States where they would be safer (hopefully). They did not want the east or west coasts because they feared the coasts could be the target of Russian nuclear attacks. The Midwest should be safer. They found that Maharishi School in Fairfield is the top private school in Iowa, and in the top 6 percent in the U.S. Fairfield is a small town in the middle of nowhere, surely it would be safe. Another attraction for the three war-torn students is that Maharishi School practiced yoga Transcendental Meditation. One of the students’ mothers practiced yoga TM, and the students knew it would help them cope with the stress of their new life.
One big problem is that they had no money. Their banks had been bombed so they had no access to what funds they had. But they called Maharishi School anyway. They were fortunate in talking to a lady in the admissions office who had a big heart. She talked to the head of the school, who said, “We’ll make it work.”
But they still have to get their visas. This requires travel to Bucharest, Romania. There is very little gasoline available and they have no money. Somehow they will accomplish it with nothing more than what they can carry in their backpacks. There will be days of waiting and living in the airport.
Meanwhile, in Fairfield, husband and wife, Carol Chesnutt and Paul Winer, in their late fifties, were discovering the hollowness of an empty nest. Their two girls had graduated from Maharishi, and were off to college and doing other things. Carol and Paul discussed becoming foster parents.
Carol, with a degree in engineering, had done some marketing and part-time teaching at Maharishi. Her neighbor, who was in charge of admissions at Maharishi, called and said, “Carol, I need your advice. We have three Ukrainian students who contacted us. What’s the best way you can think of for raising money for their living expenses in the dorm?”
Carol’s heart skipped a beat. She talked to her husband, Paul. Yes, they had the room in their house for three students — two girls and one boy. However, these were war traumatized teenagers. Wouldn’t they be better off with other students at the dorm, for interaction, socialization and professional services, like counseling? The cost for everything would be a little more than $20,000 per student per year.
Carol set up a gofundme account. It started slow. She made some phone calls. They now have a little more than $60,000. This is going to work! One donor offered to pay the students’ airfare and miscellaneous expenses, like for a comforter and curtains in their dorm rooms.
Carol and Paul know the students can’t spend their whole lives in the dorm, especially if they arrive this summer and classes don’t start until fall. Carol and Paul plan to host the students and make accommodations.
In Carol’s words, “We have to take care of each other. We can’t save three million, but we can save three. The first stage of a big undertaking is uninformed optimism. Then follows informed pessimism, once the hurdles are recognized. The third stage is adjusted reality, when it all comes together.” If you would like to help these three Ukrainian students, visit gofundme.com “Bring Ukrainian Students to U.S.” You will see Carol Chesnutt’s introduction.
Contact Curt Swarm at email@example.com