Tetyana Chubko may be thousands of mile from her homeland in Kalush, Ukraine. But she is still finding ways to serve her fellow countrymen.
The Duquesne University student, who will graduate this month with a doctoral degree in pharmacy, came to Pittsburgh in 2007 with no knowledge of the English language. Since then, she has earned two academic degrees, got married, had a child and helped her mother recover from cancer. After graduation, she will take on a new job as a pharmacist at Walgreens in Carnegie, Pennsylvania which boasts a large Ukrainian population.
Now, though, she finds her thoughts reside with her two brothers, step-father and half-brother who are fighting the war in Ukraine.
"It's been very difficult the last few months," she said. "It is so scary when you get a call and don't know what the news will be on the other end. I'm so thankful that everyone is alive. When something like this touches you personally, you really see it from a different perspective."
When the war first happened, Chubko said she felt emotionally exhausted, but then decided to redirect her energy. As a vice president of the local Ukrainian New Wave, a charitable organization, she coordinated efforts to send medical supplies to Ukraine.
"I actually feel useful now," she said. "I am helping from here and we are doing a lot of good and will continue our work."
Chubko's resourcefulness is not surprising. She has found her way ever since she entered the U.S. as a 21-year-old with no knowledge of English who started work as a nanny.
Having earned a degree at a university in Ukraine, she decided to return to school where she learned English while taking on a full course load at a community college. She eventually earned a psychology degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013, just a few months after giving birth to her daughter Sofiya.
With a passion for helping people, Chubko knew she wanted to work in health care. She took jobs at the Medicine Shoppe in Carnegie and in the pharmacy department at UPMC Passavant Hospital and joined Duquesne's Accelerated Weekend Pharmacy Program.
"The program made it possible to work, take care of my family and go to school," she said. "I felt so comfortable there right away, and the professors are very supportive."
The program was especially helpful when Chubko's mother, Mariya, who arrived in Pittsburgh in 2017, was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2018. Chubko became her caregiver, taking her to doctor visits and translating for her. The cancer is now in remission.
Ready to graduate this week, Chubko said she is grateful for the support provided by the program.
"The professors have always been here for me," she said. "When the war started, Dean (Jim) Drennen and many of my professors reached out to me with supportive messages. They have been like a second family and helped me to get through some tough times."
Chubko received three job offers before deciding on the Walgreens in Carnegie, and said Duquesne has prepared her well to serve the community.
"I've had a really good experience and loved each clinical rotation I've worked on," she said. "I've made some great connections and friends. This new position is where I want and need to be.
"I am grateful for my family and friends who have been encouraging and supportive every step of the way. I couldn't have accomplished this much without them. I am truly blessed."