NEW ORLEANS — When an education advisor to students in Ukraine called a contact in New Orleans for help, two school communities responded with open arms.
Students, parents, principals, and teachers were ready and willing to help a brother and sister whose high school education was disrupted by the war with Russia.
It's hard enough transferring to a new school but now make that school 6,000 miles away, in a different country, with a different language, without your parents or home.
“It's difficult, but I'm trying to do my best, but I knew for what I came here. I was trying to do my best, and concentrate on the school, because this is only one way you are not thinking about what's going on in my country,” Mykyta Skyba, a senior at Holy Cross High School said.
Skyba's home is in Ukraine. His new home is with a host family in New Orleans. His new school is Holy Cross.
“I'm really grateful for people in New Orleans, like to everybody, to my host family, who would take me as like their own son,” he added.
A few months ago, Skyba flew all night, and without sleep, landed and went straight to the senior class ring ceremony and dance.
“I mean that strength is just exuded, just exuded through everything that he has done. It's been a weight on him still having his sister back in Kyiv, with everything taking place, watching the news on a daily basis,” said Eric DesOrmeaux, Holy Cross High School Principal.
But the weight and stress were lifted just two days ago when his sister arrived here in New Orleans.
“I'm really happy because like I love my brother. I don't know. I love him so much. So, for me, he's the best person in my life. I don't know,” Karina Skyba said.
Karina already feels like best friends with Genevieve Kenney, her new host family "sister." She starts at Mount Carmel in the ninth grade Wednesday.
Students can't wait to meet her and bring joy into her life.
“We've prayed with the girls to recognize the blessings in our lives, the goodness of a democracy, even in times of turmoil, the safety of living in a war-torn country is not a part of our lives, and we cannot even imagine,” Beth Ann Simno, Principal of Mount Carmel Academy said.
“I'm really thank my host family. And during the war in Ukraine, it's really like scary to be there. I can't like study, for example. So, I'm really like thankful that I am here in a safe place,” Karina said.
The siblings have witnessed bombings. Their father stayed behind to defend his country. It's changed their lives, but the schools say it's this brother and sister who have forever changed two entire student bodies.
Because of the time difference, Mykyta says he is thankful that the school lets him try to contact his family during class time, to see if they are okay.
He was overwhelmed when he opened the door to his new room at his host family home, to find gifts from so many other families.