Exchange student’s stay in North Dakota extended due to war in Ukraine

Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 5:01 PM CDT
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BEACH, N.D. (KFYR) - Studying abroad is usually a one-year adventure, but one exchange student’s trip has been extended for a second year.

The war in Ukraine has left 17-year-old Dima Davydenko with no home to return to.

Davydenko has mastered the art of taking a great selfie. His phone is filled with selfies, and with other photos that all tell a story about his time as an exchange student in the United States.

His phone is also his connection to his friends and family, and to his war-torn homeland. Davydenko’ s hometown of Velyka Novosillka in eastern Ukraine has become a Russian target. His parents and grandmother have moved to another city.

“Everything changed drastically,” he stated.

Davydenko was supposed to return to Ukraine on June 9. Instead, he’s staying another year in Beach, a place he’d never even heard of a year ago.

“When I found out that, I thought it would have a sea or lake or ocean. There’s notbhing like that,” Davydenko recalled with a laugh.

But what he has found here on the western edge of North Dakota is a sense of community, a refuge from war and a second home.

“I’m just the American mom, but there was no way I was sending him back to what was like little to nothing left,” said Jill Schatz, Davydenko’s host mom said.

While a part of him wishes he was home fighting for his country, Davydenko is also happy to be in Beach and to get a bonus year of high school. He’s looking forward to adding more photos to his camera roll, so he’ll never forget this unexpected stay in Beach.

Davydenko is able to check in with his family daily. So far, they’ve stayed safe, but he says many homes in his hometown of about 5,000 people have been destroyed.

Davydenko says the support the people of Beach, and the entire state, have shown his country has been overwhelming.

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