Finding a New Home at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy

Fleeing the violence in Ukraine, Liubov Palchak found a new place to continue her PhD work at the School

Story and photo by Marilee Combs | Published March 14, 2023

Liubov Palchak smiles at the camera in a laboratory

Liubov Palchak had been pursuing her PhD at a leading university in Kharkiv, Ukraine when Russia invaded. As the violence escalated, Liubov found it increasingly difficult to continue her studies. When her university fell victim to Russian bombing in the early months of 2022, she was forced to put her academic aspirations on hold. She had to face one of the most difficult decisions of her life: flee her home in Ukraine or stay and risk her own safety and that of her family. With no end to the conflict in sight, Liubov knew that she needed to find a new home and a new opportunity to continue her education.

The safety of her six-year-old son was the most profound reason she ultimately chose to leave Ukraine. “On the first day of the war, when I heard Kramatorsk was bombed, I thought, ‘I must go to a safer place because I have a child,’” Liubov says. “I love my country with all my heart, and if I didn’t have my son, maybe I would’ve stayed in Ukraine and went into the army to help however I can.”

The journey to the United States was difficult for Liubov. The US embassy did not approve her J-1 Visa, a type of Visa required for those entering the US for graduate studies, as she couldn’t prove that she could return to Ukraine within a year. After a stressful seven month wait, Liubov was approved to enter the US as a forced immigrant thanks to the “United for Ukraine” program, and with the help of  Eshelman Distinguished Professor, Dr. Alexander Kabanov. Liubov arrived in the United States in September, 2022.

When she finally arrived in the US, Liubov was overwhelmed with relief and gratitude. Upon beginning her new journey at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, she was surprised by the level of support and kindness she was shown by members of pharmacy community. Liubov’s story is one of resilience and hope, as she has found a new home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Liubov is now completing her PhD studies in nanotechnology at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy under the direction of Dr. Alexander Kabanov, who helped her so much in attaining her Visa. “I thought it was compelling that Liubov is taking care of her child, mother, and grandmother,” he recalls. “As far as a student, she is excellent. When she came here, I also realized that she is not only a student, but she’s also a mentor.”

Liubov is passionate about her research and hopes that her work will eventually lead to the development of more effective treatments for patients in Ukraine. Her goal now is to build a better future for herself and her family, and she remains committed to earning her PhD so that she can return to Ukraine and make a difference in her home country through medicine.

Liubov is just one example of the many individuals who have been displaced by the conflict in Ukraine and have shown strength in the face of adversity. Her story serves as a reminder of the importance of compassion, empathy, and generosity in times of crisis, and of the urgent need to support refugees around the world. It is important to remember that behind the numbers and statistics, these individuals are real people with real hopes and dreams. Liubov’s story is a reminder that no matter how difficult a situation may seem, there is always hope.