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Darla Moore School of Business

  • Photo of medical personnel and soldiers in a Ukrainian hospital

    Supporting Ukraine

    Medical personnel and soldiers in a Ukrainian hospital

Helping the Ukrainian wounded

Moore School students and Ukraine natives launch campaign to aid Ukrainian wounded

Moore School juniors and Ukraine natives Batraz Albegov and Yehor Shtanko are experiencing a wide range of emotions as Russia invades Ukraine and threatens its sovereignty: anger, stress, fear, depression, anger again.

However, like many Ukrainians currently living outside the country’s borders, they also feel guilt. Through family friends, the two students heard of a nonprofit in desperate need of expensive wound therapy machines to help Ukrainian soldiers and civilians injured in the conflict. They felt it was a good opportunity to assist Ukraine from thousands of miles away.

A sobering conflict

While Albegov and Shtanko live comfortably in the U.S. as USC students, their Ukrainian relatives are living in bomb shelters amid regular air strike alerts.

“I, like many of our friends here at USC and other parts of the world, feel guilty for being safe and sleeping in a warm bed with access to food and water,” said Albegov, who is majoring in finance and minoring in computer science.

Albegov and Shtanko, who is majoring in international business and economics at the Moore School, said they felt they needed to do something to assuage their feelings of helplessness and aid in the war effort.

Albegov’s family friend, Kochergina Varvara, manages the Ukrainian nonprofit Civic Organization of Doctors of Good Will, which aids wounded soldiers and civilians. Her organization is treating wounded Ukrainian soldiers and civilians whose very lives depend on expensive physical therapy equipment used to heal bullet and shrapnel wounds. The number of Ukrainians they’re treating far outweighs their current capacity, Albegov explained.

For the Organization of Doctors of Good Will, Albegov and Shtanko created a GoFundMe to raise $23,000 to cover the cost of five negative pressure wound therapy machines and the accompanying supplementary kits. Varvara explained that they cannot get these machines in Ukraine at this point in the war, so Albegov connected with Genadyne, a company in Turkey that has the machines and accompanying supplies in stock.

Recognizing the importance of the machines in assisting Ukraine in the fight against Russia, Genadyne agreed to give Albegov a 50 percent discount on the regular retail price of the machines and supplies and will assist in shipping them to Poland. Albegov said he will have to coordinate with Varvara’s team to get the machines from Poland to Kyiv, Ukraine.

Understanding the impact the GoFundMe could have on wounded Ukrainians, Albegov said it is crucial for each life they’re able to save.

Life in Ukraine and Russia for civilians

Currently living in the U.S., Albegov sporadically touches base with his relatives still living in Ukraine.

“Well, my 87-year-old grandmother has been living in a bomb shelter for more than two months now, listening to air raid alerts since the first day of the invasion,” he said. “Same applies to all my uncles and aunts, brothers, cousins and nieces who are currently in Ukraine. Same goes to my friends. But luckily, they are alive and ‘OK’ for now.”

Albegov is also deeply concerned for his mother, father, two younger brothers and friends who now live in Russia; he likens the Russian civilians’ plight to the citizens who live under a totalitarian dictatorship in North Korea.

“My family is trying to leave Russia right now. My parents are selling their business and house, so they can escape from Russia as soon as possible,” he said. “The house in which I grew up is being sold. Two of my friends back in Moscow were arrested for peaceful protests against the war during the first days of the Russian invasion. I haven’t heard from them since then, but I’ve spoken to their family members, and it seems like they are OK but are currently held in prison against their rights.” 

While Albegov’s immediate family moved to Russia when he was a child, Shtanko was born and raised in a tiny village in southern Ukraine; he said he did not want to specify the location for security reasons, though he notes they live close to the border with occupied Crimea.

“Ukraine is my home country, the place where I have lived my entire life before coming to USC and where my friends, classmates and parents still live,” he said. “I feel anger and stress but by far I feel guilty and privileged for being safe and far away from the conflict. My parents begged me not to come back to Ukraine and to finish the university they have worked so hard to pay for.”

Shtanko said he constantly fights the urge to join the Ukrainian armed forces to keep his promise to his parents to finish his bachelor’s.

Shtanko said though his family members are alive, “what they have lived through has forever changed their mentality and life. They will never be the same people I grew up with. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to see them again.”

USC, Moore School impact

Keeping his promise to stay in the U.S. and finish his degree, Shtanko said he is grateful for the experiences he’s had at the Moore School and USC.

“Attending USC, I have become more reasonable and weighted in my opinions and ideas,” Shtanko said. “I stopped seeing the world in black and white and have become much more rational. So, I’ve learned critical thinking for sure. The more I learn and educate myself, the more I feel like there is so much more to be absorbed. So, this feeling of continuing and constant learning is my No. 1 experience in the Moore School by far.”

Like Shtanko, Albegov agreed he has strengthened his critical-thinking skills while enrolled at the Moore School and has also learned the importance of discipline, hard work and teamwork.

When he graduates next year, Albegov intends to work in the investment banking industry and eventually begin his own financial-planning business.

With broader career interests, Shtanko is still deciding which industry he intends to pursue and is currently considering consulting; international strategy, product and project management; business intelligence; or data analytics. He said he intends to continue at the Moore School after he graduates in 2023 to obtain his Master of International Business degree.

Shtanko said he ultimately wants to return home to build a “new Ukraine.”

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