YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, Ohio —
Life is not easy.
Many people wake up unhappy with where they are in life. They dream big and yearn for a change in the hand they’ve been dealt, praying for a wild shot to prove itself. Some people wait their whole lives for just one chance, and some, tragically, don’t trust their own courage and determination to do what their heart yearns to do, succumbing to that little voice saying that they just might not be enough.
But that’s a sleeper load, at least based on Senior Airman Viktoria Senkiv’s example.
Senkiv is a member of the 910th Security Forces Squadron fire team who believes anything is possible and no dream is too big.
At a young age, Senkiv learned the importance of hard work and knew its rewards. Born into a farming family and raised in Horodenka, Ukraine, Senkiv spent time helping her family grow vegetables and feed livestock. There, she learned what could spring from patience and cultivation.
“I know hard work,” Senkiv said.
Learning to work with his hands was only part of his life in Ukraine; she also cultivated her mind. Before the age of 18, Senkiv had earned his first college degree, a bachelor’s degree in financial studies at Zalishchyky State Agricultural College. Soon after, either by luck or fate, Senkiv had the opportunity to move to the United States by applying for a diversity visa, a US immigration program.
“When I was 18, I won a green card in a lottery,” Senkiv said. “After six months of consideration, I have in fact moved to the United States of America.”
Discussing her immigration experience often causes Senkiv to pause and reflect as she recalls the challenges she faced.
“Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy, but I love it,” Senkiv said. “I was only 18 and had to leave my family behind and explore the new world across the ocean. But I like the choice I made then, and I have had no regrets since.”
The one thing Senkiv was sure of when she chose to start her life in America was that there were many opportunities for herself and others. She just had to look for them.
“You just have to start doing something,” Senkiv said. “Even if you don’t succeed at first, at least you try. This way you will know if it is yours or not.
His very first obvious hurdle was understanding the English language. But instead of seeing it as an obstacle, Senkiv saw it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
“I didn’t speak English at all,” she said. “I didn’t understand people. My first month here I was in a store and this lady came up to me and started talking but I couldn’t understand. Fortunately, I had a friend with me who explained to me that she was only complimenting my shoes. But I felt a little embarrassed to be afraid that the lady would talk to me and be nice. It made me want to learn English immediately. Like I want to speak English right now and try to have a conversation with people. It was the conversations and the practice that really made this possible. ”
Senkiv attended Wayne County Community College, earning an associate’s degree in criminal justice while working two jobs. After that, she felt confident enough in her fluency in English to enroll at Ferris State University to continue her education, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a first responder certificate. In April 2018, Senkiv had applied for and obtained his citizenship in the United States. She wanted to find something new in herself to lean on, a new goal to pursue. In October 2020, Senkiv enlisted in the US Air Force as a Reserve Citizen Airman.
“As I was thinking about my future, I realized I wanted to try something else, something different,” Senkiv said. “That’s when I looked at the army. By exploring this military side, I realized that the Reserves is the best way to balance your personal life, your civilian life and your military life. At that time, it was the right choice for me.
Enlistment as an airman provided Senkiv with a wide range of benefits, similar to those individuals on active duty would receive, with one major addition: time. The Air Force Reserve gave Senkiv time to pursue her civilian career, time to volunteer within her community, and time to serve her country as a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Senkiv is now approaching her 28th birthday, approaching her first decade in the United States, and has settled in a small town near Detroit, Michigan. Once a month, she flies more than 220 miles one-way to Air Reserve Station in Youngstown, Ohio, for a two-day unit training assembly with her fellow security force defenders. . When asked why she chose the 910th Airlift Wing, she replied that it was up to the people.
“Youngstown touched my heart,” Senkiv said. “When I called different recruiters and came down to talk, these are the people who got me. The first question I always get asked is, ‘How can we help? Do you need help? help with anything? If you need anything please let us know. It really stuck with me. Everyone I met was so willing to help a complete stranger, and that’s what who made me want to be part of this family.
As a member of the 910th SFS, Senkiv’s primary duty is to serve as the Facility Entry Controller for the YARS Gateway. Defenders like Senkiv are the installation’s first line of defense in keeping Reserve Airmen, civilians and military assets safe and ready for the mission. The position requires constant vigilance, not a small feat or responsibility.
During the four-hour drive home, Senkiv may return to her civilian life, but she never truly relinquishes the Air Force’s core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and excellence in everything we do. Although she has spent much of her time gaining a higher education since arriving in America, Senkiv has also taught others and volunteered within her community, beginning by teaching young Ukrainian-Americans the language. and the history of their culture.
“I also volunteer for…,” Senkiv said, pausing for a few seconds before laughing, “for pretty much anything I can.”
As she recalls her experiences and accomplishments, her expressions change from joyful pride to determination and empathy.
“I know what it’s like to be alone somewhere and not have anyone for you,” Senkiv said. “I know because it was like that for me for many years. So I decided to join the 76th Branch of the National Ukrainian Women’s League of America.
According to the UNWLA website, the organization was founded in 1925 by five Ukrainian women to inform and educate Americans about their heritage and homeland. Today, it is considered the oldest and largest Ukrainian women’s organization in the United States, continuing its mission to unite women of Ukrainian descent and affiliation in service, friendship, and dedication. to each other and to develop educational and cultural efforts and humanitarian aid for Ukrainians around the world.
Senkiv has helped UNWLA organize events, cook and sell food, and use profits to support those in need.
“We have a few students that we send money to for education,” Senkiv said. “We also have a few foster homes that we help from time to time. Almost everyone who is in need, we do our best to help them.
In addition to UNWLA, Senkiv participates in a non-profit organization called New Wave Detroit which plans and organizes events for Ukrainian performing artists, such as musicians and actors, allowing them to share their art and culture by America while helping those in need.
“My mom always said, ‘If you want to change the world, start with yourself,’” Senkiv said. “Every day I try to make her proud. I think about what she would say about what I do, and I just try to do the right thing.
Looking back on memories of her mother, Senkiv reveals there was a pivotal moment after her mother passed away in 2016 that changed her life and led her towards charity and community work.
“I was going to college and every day I saw this old man sitting on the street reading a book,” Senkiv said. “One day I decided to stop and offer lunch, and I sat down with him and had lunch with him. I still remember the day, May 26, when he said: “We may have everything today, but we may have nothing tomorrow. We have to think about it every day in our actions. What are we doing, not for our bodies, but for our souls? really touched. Because I may not have everything I want, but I have everything I need. And since I’ve had enough, I just want to start giving back to people. C That’s why I started volunteering That’s why I joined the military I can mix two of my worlds and make them work.
Senkiv shows no signs of stopping as she now plans to become an FBI agent.
“I will try to do that,” Senkiv said. “But, honestly, I don’t believe we can plan much in the future because something can happen every day and totally change your life. I’m just trying to take it step by step and go for it. day by day.
Senkiv came to the United States as an 18-year-old farmer in a country not yet her own and with, as she put it, “no money, no family, and no English.” Through her hard work, perseverance and determination to serve, she has demonstrated the validity of her claim that no dream is too big and anything is possible.