University students: a tale of solidarity

From the left to the right: Annina D., Olena, Livia S.
From the left to the right: Annina D., Olena, Livia S.

Institutional Communication Service

1 July 2022

Olena T., 20, is a Ukrainian medical student at Poltava State Medical University. She came to Ticino in March, fleeing the war. The student representative in the USI Senate, Diana D., raised a plea for help via Instagram to find her temporary housing. The call was answered by two students from USI Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, Annina D. and Livia S. So, thanks to the solidarity of fellow medical students, Olena found a home among peers with whom she took her first steps in Lugano and at USI.

Four months after her arrival, Olena continues attending classes online at the Ukrainian university. She completed her third-year exams just a few days ago. Together with her younger brother Ivan and her cousin Arseni, she lives in an apartment within walking distance of the Lugano campus, thanks to the generous support of the Foundation for the Lugano Faculties of USI.


Olena, what would you like to say to the two students who first welcomed you into their home?

As soon as I met Annina and Livia, I immediately felt a great connection. I lived in their apartment the first week I arrived in Switzerland. It was unforgettable. Every evening we had dinner together and were able to discuss many things. They welcomed us with friendship and quickly arranged for humanitarian and financial assistance, for which we are very grateful. Therefore, I want to use this opportunity to say it once more: girls, thank you from the bottom of my heart for such a warm welcome and the good times we had together!


How were you welcomed in Lugano and at USI?

Every day at USI, I meet new friends, different languages and cultures. I walked a lot in the first days to discover Lugano City. I was almost shocked by how beautiful, tidy and clean everything was, but also by how kind people were to me. We arrived in Lugano thanks to some wonderful people who decided to bring humanitarian aid to Ukraine and brought us here on the return trip. First and foremost, Luca Saglini, an artist with a big heart, who picked us up at the Polish border and who, together with his beautiful wife Roberta, continues to support us. They are the ones who put me in touch with USI. Here I met wonderful students like Diana D. and Emma B., with whom I spent a lot of time and found a home thanks to the support of the Foundation for the Lugano Faculties of USI and, in particular, its Secretary Albino Zgraggen.


As a young girl who had already embarked on a solid study and life project in Ukraine, what does it mean to rearrange your plans? 

True, in Ukraine, I had already made my choices: I was studying medicine and working at a medical centre. When the war started, it was scary to leave everything behind, but I was more afraid to stay in Ukraine, where the war continues to this day.


We know that you have also enrolled in the USI Summer Campus: how important is it for you to be in contact with other young people?

I am thrilled to participate in the USI Summer Campus: I hope it will allow me to learn more about Switzerland and what life is like here. I look forward to meeting new students, communicating with them, and learning more about the language and local and international traditions.


What are your plans and hopes for the near future?

I hope with all my heart to be able to continue my studies in medicine, although there are plenty of difficulties in finding continuity solutions. More generally, I hope for the return of peace for everyone.