You'd be hard-pressed to name many similarities between the small town of Stryi in western Ukraine and the chaotic metropolis that is New York City, USA. One commonality, however, is certain: Stanislav Kravchenko.
Ukrainian born and raised, Stanislav immigrated to the US over a decade ago seeking opportunity.
Did he find it? More like earned it–he worked his way up from a Wilhelmina fitness model to Equinox trainer to the co-founder of ONEFIT, a custom wellness solution that uses a virtual assessment to determine the right expert-formulated fitness program and weekly routine for each client.
Though today he calls NYC home, leaving behind his native country of Ukraine, including his family and friends, definitely wasn't an easy transition. Stanislav hasn't forgotten the values he was raised with, values he proudly confirms aren't unique to his person, but upheld by the Ukrainian people as a whole.
As Stanislav faces the current situation in Ukraine from his home in New York, he is determined to do his part to support the country's valiant stand against Russian forces.
LM: When did you immigrate to the United States, and why?
SK: I immigrated to the USA in 2010, searching for more and better opportunities, as well as full democracy. Ukraine is a pretty democratic country right now under Zelensky’s leadership. He's made me very proud to be a Ukrainian immigrant.
LM: Where do you live now?
SK: In looking for bigger opportunities... I moved to NYC of course! The land of hustle and dreams. One of the greatest cities in the whole world. I always heard that if you make it here, you could make it anywhere, but now that I've experienced all this city has to offer, NYC is my home forever.
Stan with his family in Lviv, Ukraine
LM: What would you consider to be the most significant cultural similarities between the US and Ukraine? And differences?
SK: I really enjoy seeing how Americans are so family oriented. I've noticed how important it is for Americans to get together and celebrate holidays or special occasions. It's beautiful, and I would say that the importance of family is similarly valued in Ukraine. We love spending time with our families and friends.
The biggest difference is how much and how hard Americans work. Especially in New York City. There is a work ethic and drive that I've felt internally as an individual, but I never truly experienced living in Ukraine. Where I’m from, there is much more of a work-life balance. I think that cultural perspective is present throughout Europe, overall, with less work hours and more time off.
I respect the benefits of both mindsets, and as I get older, I'm understanding the importance of finding greater work/life balance.
LM: How has being from the Ukraine shaped your approach to overcoming obstacles and achieving goals, from a career, personal, and fitness perspective?
SK: Being Ukrainian has shaped me to be a driven individual. I love an obstacle, I love to chase and achieve and overcome. That’s the Ukrainian DNA in a nutshell. We’re a very hardworking people; obstacles only motivate us to conquer more. These values are reflected in my personal life AND career. I came to this country with a purpose, and I think challenges and working toward goals keeps me on my toes and motivates me to be the best version of myself.
Being an immigrant is the ultimate challenge. I'm constantly pushing myself to be better -- as a man, a boyfriend, a professional. It's easy to be complacent when you don’t set goals for yourself. Growing up in Ukraine taught me I could overcome tough situations; it's what gave me the confidence to take on big goals later in life.
LM: What’s something special about the people of Ukraine that inspires you?
SK: Bravery. Oh my god, can we talk about this a little bit?!?! I grew up in the ‘90s, where we essentially grew up on the streets playing outside games like “Kozaki i Rozboiniki” (translation: “Kozaks and Rogues”). The mission is to protect your friends and secret information, while not letting rogues catch you (my girlfriend explained this is similar to "Capture the Flag" in the US). We would play for hours, throughout the whole city, running away from each other. That game taught us to be brave, to fight for truth and for your friends.
LM: You’ve proudly spoken out as a Ukrainian immigrant with family and friends currently living in–and fighting for–your home country. What has the overall response been like on social media?
SK: My whole family and many of my close friends are living in Ukraine. Their motivation and strength is very inspiring–I have been talking about this on my social media and in my NEOU classes. Responses have been incredible, filled with love, peace and support from around the world. It’s amazing to see how many of us are united in our support of truth and fight against evil.
Stan with his mother in Lviv, Ukraine
LM: Have you been able to communicate lately with family and friends living in Ukraine?
SK: I've been communicating with my family and friends on a regular basis: I check on my family every single day. Ukraine is not a safe territory right now. Russian missiles have been launched into every region of the country. I feel very lucky that my family is on the Western end and I feel deeply saddened for people who have left their homes behind when evacuating the capital and Eastern Ukraine. Frankly, it’s a horrible situation and those who have committed such atrocities must be held accountable.
LM: What have they shared with you, about their experiences living in a war zone?
SK: Living in a war zone, on a basic level, means living in very poor conditions, under extremely dangerous and stressful circumstances. Every night they hear air warning sirens, which means that Russian planes or rockets are heading toward their location. I truly can’t even imagine what it’s like and how most people are going to recover mentally after such extreme situations and stress, living in a war zone. It's awful.
LM: What can people outside of Ukraine do right now to educate themselves or support the efforts?
SK: One thing I want to mention is that Russians have always tried to influence and control Ukraine. As Russia sees Ukraine moving further and further toward Western politics and economics... to freedom, full democracy, free speech, the European Union... Russia sees this as a threat. They see themselves losing control and influence. But Ukrainians “Kozaks” are free people with no need to be controlled by Putin’s regime. We are fighting for democracy in the 21st century, in the heart of Europe.
If you’re reading this and want to support democracy, free speech, freedom and peace, please find some way to donate/contribute to help Ukrainians fight against Putin’s regime. Educate yourself. Learn the history and the story of Ukraine. And be loud about your support. People often feel awkward vocalizing efforts to donate, or speaking out about sensitive subjects–but every voice matters.
Ukrainians need to not only feel your support with help and donations, they need to hear your support from around the world. Stand with Ukraine. Speak up for Ukraine. Thank you all! 💙 💛
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