Coming from the city of Kalush, in western Ukraine, Vitalii Strutynskyi and his family fled to the Czech Republic first, where they assembled documents to come to this country. When he arrived at Saint Viator last year, he says his biggest barrier was the language. However, when he joined the hockey team, he let his speed and powerful shot do the talking.
This year, Vitalii is one of the team’s top six forwards, whom the team will look to when the Lions open their season Saturday against St. Ignatius College Prep at the Mount Prospect Ice Arena. He has adapted to the language and credits his teachers — and classmates — with taking extra time to explain difficult subject matter. All of which has helped him build confidence.
“Viatlii is a speedy left winger that plays big,” Head Coach Tim Benz says. “He is strong on the puck – it’s tough to take it from him — and he has a motor that doesn’t quit.
“As a person, Vitalii is a great teammate and very coachable. He is eager to learn,” Coach Benz adds. “Overcoming a huge move, new school, new country and a language barrier has been nothing short of incredible. He has quickly just become one of the guys on the team and will emerge as a leader this season.”
Vitalii is one of two students from Ukraine at Saint Viator this year. Olha Slobodianiuk arrived at the beginning of the school year after attending a school in North Carolina last year.
“I am from Kyiv, which is the capital of Ukraine, so obviously Russia wanted to take the capital, which affected the city a lot,” Olha says. “Leaving Ukraine was hard. Getting together all the documents and visas was harder than it would be in a country without war.”
In less than a month, Ohla is settling in and already looking forward to taking new courses next semester, such as Theatre 2, which focuses more on the production aspects of theatre.
“Saint Viator allows all students to try a lot of different things,” Ohla adds, “and that’s what makes the school so amazing.”
Both students are benefiting from Saint Viator’s Rev. Mark R. Francis, CSV, International Program, but as its moderator, Ms. Stefania Svejnoha explains, the entire school community is enriched.
“Olya and Vitalii’s attendance at Saint Viator brings not only culture and awareness to our community,” she says, “but a sense of compassion as well.
“They did not leave Ukraine of their own choice for an American education like the majority of our international students do, but for their personal safety,” she adds. “As Viatorian educators and administrators, giving them the opportunity to study safely and not sacrifice their education due to war, I believe represents Saint Viator High School, and the program’s mission perfectly.”