PLAINVIEW, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Officials from Wayland Baptist University announced that a student from Ukraine made the difficult journey to Plainview in order to attend classes at the university for the fall 2022 semester.
Mariia Syzonekno’s from Dnipro, Ukraine will attend Wayland Baptist University as a freshman for the 2022-2023 school year.
According to a news release, Synzoneko traveled from her home in eastern Ukraine to Poland before traveling to Plainview, Texas. When Mariia arrived she was greeted at the door by members of International Student affairs, as well as other faculty members with a gift and flowers.
“I have no words, I think,” Syzoneko said. “I am so excited about how it happened. I can’t imagine that this has happened to me.”
The release stated that Sherman and Tammy Aten, are Wayland alumni who helped connect Synzoneko with Wayland Baptist University.
Officials stated that the welcome was the combination of a years-long effort by the Atens to help Mariia come to the United States to study. It was their international music ministry that brought them into contact seven years ago with the student. Her father, Sergei Dnipro, is the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Dnipro.
“They have become kind of our adopted family,” Sherman Aten said.
About three years ago, Mariia mentioned to the Atens that she would like to study in the U.S., so they went to work trying to make that happen. In the fall of 2019, she was accepted to another university, but she never made it there.
“COVID hit and things just started to dwindle,” Aten recalled.
As well as the pandemic, the recent war in Ukraine created a roadblock for Mariia. Mariia stated that she remembers the night that bombs began to fall.
Officials stated that the Atens had a meeting with Dr. Bobby Hall, President of Wayland Baptist University, to try to help Mariia attend the university.
“I didn’t try Wayland,” Aten admitted. “But I talked to Bobby Hall a few months ago and told him what was happening. He said, ‘We would love to make something happen.’ He and Dr. (Claude) Lusk have made this incredible thing happen. So, that’s why she is here.”
“We have long been so proud of the international music ministry of our alumni, Tammy and Sherman Aten,” Hall said. “In conversation with them about Sherman becoming a Wayland trustee, they made me aware of Mariia’s circumstance in war-torn Ukraine, and we discussed how we might work together to bring her to Wayland. The Atens’ lengthy ministry in Ukraine coupled with their dedication and that of others has brought us to this day, and we praise the Lord that Mariia is now safely with us here in Plainview.”
Mariia said that she was overwhelmed by her journey to Plainview as well as how God brought everything together.
“It is amazing, and I am so excited about how it happened,” she said. “I can’t imagine that this has happened with me. I was so excited when Sherman wrote me an email that Wayland Baptist University wanted to invite me. I do not have the words to explain what I thought.”
Officials stated that Mariia was supposed to travel to Kiev to secure the papers necessary to come to the United States, but that trip became impossible. An alternate plan was developed and carefully executed.
“Like clockwork, the Lord was putting it all together,” Aten said. “Mariia would have to get to the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw.”
Mariia stated that her father was not permitted to leave the county and her mother stayed behind to care for her younger sibling. She made the journey to Poland by herself.
“She had to take a bus trip to Warsaw,” Aten explained. “It was a 17-hour trip to the border, traveling over horrible roads. The roads were already so unbelievable. I can’t imagine what they were like after being bombed.”
Aten stated that there was another setback when she reached Poland.
“She made it to the boarder, but there was a 10-hour delay there,” Aten said. “We don’t know what that was about, but she did make it to Warsaw for her appointment.”
Aten stated that the trip to the U.S. embassy in Warsaw was a miracle.
“Her visa was accepted and approved, “Aten said. “She had to wait a couple of days for her passport.”
The Atens said picking Mariia up from the airport was a challenge due to the recent flooding events in Dallas. The Atens said that they drove through the storms to the Atens’ home in Granbury, and then on to Plainview.
“We had been working on this for two and a half years, but it wasn’t going to happen until people like Dr. Hall, Claude Lusk and Debbie Stennett stepped in,” Aten said. “It’s all about God’s timing.”
Officials said that Mariia began classes Thursday.