Tetyana Kucher has a reminder of home at her desk; a blue and yellow heart for her native Ukraine.
"I brought it from Ukraine a while ago," Kucher said, pointing out it was long before war in her homeland was on the news in the United States every night.
In February, that changed.
"Nobody knew what was going to happen," Kucher said. "Every day was like walking on the edge of the knife."
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Kucher was preparing to defend her doctoral dissertation at the University of North Texas, but her mind was with family in Ukraine.
"I physically wasn't able to work on anything else or think about anything else other than what was happening in Ukraine, because nobody knew what was going to happen," Kucher said.
That's when one of her professors and mentors, Dr. Regina Kaplan-Rakowski, who is from Poland, stepped in.
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"Polish people are incredible people," Kucher said. "She said, 'you know, I have a place where your family can stay if it comes to this.' I was thinking, 'surely it's not going to come to this,' but it did, and she was kind enough to offer her place for my family to stay."
Kucher said her father and brother had to stay behind to help the war effort, but her mother is in Poland now, with the help of her professor. It helped Kucher concentrate on defending her dissertation to graduate on time.
"I wish my family was here," Kucher said. "If I can make their day just a little bit better and brighter, even from being so far away, then nothing else would make me happier."
Kucher will graduate from UNT on Sunday with a Doctorate in Learning Technologies.