Every Hoo Has a Story: This Hoo Hasn’t Seen Her Parents in Nearly 4 Years

April 19, 2024 By Mike Mather, mike.mather@virginia.edu Mike Mather, mike.mather@virginia.edu

When Anzhelika Parenchuk was 10, she told her parents she was going to study abroad.

“They were like, ‘OK,’” Parenchuk said. “They have never held me back. They were always by my side, pushing me.”

In fact, her parents had been preparing for this eventuality. They enrolled their daughter in English classes when she was very young, perhaps realizing she would dream of a bigger future than was available in Barnaul, Russia, just south of Siberia.

But when that time came eight years later, money was scarce. As Parenchuk tells it, “I come from a low-income city, country and family.”

As she approached her 18th birthday, Parenchuk, a decorated youth runner in Russia, started looking for university track and field teams that might need a sprinter. She found a spot on the University of Virginia team and a scholarship to help with her education.

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Anzhelika Parenchuk running on the track holding a baton
Parenchuk was a decorated runner as a teen in Russia. When she decided to pursue a degree in the United States, she started looking for track and field programs that could use another sprinter, and that brought her to UVA. (Photo by Virginia Athletics)

But before she could travel, a pandemic swept the world. The U.S. embassy in Russia was shuttered, she couldn’t get a visa, and she missed her first semester at UVA. Undaunted, she plotted a trip of 3,000 miles to another country with an open U.S. embassy.

“I took all the money I saved and went to Albania for two weeks to get visas,” she recalled. “It was fun, it was my first experience speaking English because I was in a little hostel and there were people from all around the world, from the United States as well. So, I felt like it was my demo version of coming to the United States.”

Parenchuk told us her story last week, just 30 days before Final Exercises. This time of year, UVA Today often publishes profiles on graduating students suggested to us by their deans, professors or advisers. But this series, “Every Hoo Has a Story,” is a little different. We simply placed two chairs on the Lawn and randomly roped fourth-year Hoos into sharing their UVA journeys.

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With her visa finally in hand, Parenchuk landed in Charlottesville. But at the end of her first school year when most students head home for summer break, Parenchuk faced a dilemma: COVID-19 was still spreading. She worried if she returned to Russia, she might not be able to get back to Charlottesville. She and her parents decided she had to stay in Virginia.

“But I had no room, I had nowhere to live,” she said. “I was basically homeless. That summer, I had nowhere to go.”

She slept on couches for a while and got a job at the Slaughter Rec Center “so I was able to make some money and get some food and stuff because my parents really could not send me a lot of money.”

Here’s how she remembers that time:

The experience showed her the value of finding friends and connecting with the Wahoo community. One classmate had an apartment empty for the summer and let Parenchuk stay there, rent free. Others let her know about more steady and more lucrative work.

“And then, after the summer, everything turned around,” she said.

To make up for her missed semester, Parenchuk stayed in America the next summers as well, earning money working summer camps and catching up on her studies.

That means she hasn’t seen her parents in nearly four years.

Hopefully, she’ll see them soon. Her mom and dad have tourist visas in hand and, barring any travel challenges, should arrive in Charlottesville in time for her graduation. She can’t wait to see them and to show them the person their daughter has become.

Media Contact

Mike Mather

Managing Editor University Communications