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Student spotlight: Marta Trembetska

Student spotlight: Marta Trembetska

by Public Relations | June 25, 2024

LATROBE, PA – In August 2022, Marta Trembetska, C 26, traveled halfway across the world from Ukraine to enroll at Saint Vincent College. Her motivation for the journey was twofold: to flee a war that is ravaging her homeland and to discover—perhaps a better word is reinvent—herself in America.

“No one knows you here, so you can be the person you want to be,” Trembetska said. “You can leave a lot of worries behind. In Ukraine, if I’d do something different, everyone would be like, ‘What happened to the Marta we know?’ Here, you get to introduce yourself as a new person, without old beliefs or patterns. That’s a very cool thing, to kind of start a new life.”

Trembetska grew up in Lviv, a city with a population of 717,500 in western Ukraine about 43 miles from the border with Poland. A hub of culture and education, Lviv was a popular tourist destination before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

“The day the war started, it was like everything was empty,” Trembetska said, “All the streets were empty. It was very silent. You don’t know what to do. Should you try to leave the country? Should you stay? How will it affect you?”

Although Lviv is farther from the front lines than any other major city in Ukraine, it has absorbed several missile attacks. On the first night of the war, Trembetska and her family sought shelter and companionship at the home of some friends. It was a fitful night’s sleep for everyone—and then they heard the air-raid sirens.

“We had to learn all the rules of what to do when there is an explosion, like where to hide and what to keep in your backpack,” she said. “When you’re woken up at 3 a.m. by an air-raid alarm, you go to the shelter, sit there until everything is done and then go back home. You live like that every day, and you get used to it.

“When you hear explosions, it’s not the same as in the movies. I remember the first time it happened. I stood still and waited for the second [explosion], and then the third one. Everyone else was still; no one was talking. After it's done, you're like, ‘OK, let's go check the news.’ It's like, you live in the world, but also you don't know anything else. You only know that [the war] is not going to end tomorrow.”

Seeking stability and safety, Trembetska considered enrolling at a university in France, Great Britain or Canada. However, the lure of America won out. It took a while for her to get all her paperwork in order, line up a host family in the United States and investigate colleges via the Internet. Six months after the bombing and shooting began in Ukraine, Trembetska stepped foot for the first time on Saint Vincent College’s tranquil, leafy campus.

“The first few months here were definitely surreal,” said. “It was like being in an American movie, you know, living the American dream. Everything was just as I’d imagined it would be and even better.”

Recently, Trembetska’s brother called with disturbing news: their father was conscripted into the Ukrainian army. “I cried all my tears that day,” she said. Although her home and family are 5,000 miles away, Trembetska has come to realize that in some ways the war is never far from her.

“I hate fireworks. I'm afraid of thunder,” she said. “Very often, before going to sleep, I check myself, like, ‘Where are my documents? Where is my backpack? What clothes and food should I pack?’ It gives me a sense of security, but at the same time, it’s weird.”

In her first year at Saint Vincent, Trembetska said she tried to experience as much as possible as quickly as possible: “I was meeting and talking to everyone, trying to make as many friends as I could.” She was active with the Health and Fitness, Women in Business and International Student Union clubs. She went to dozens of athletic events—even though she was clueless about American football and doesn’t like baseball—and learned how to play pickleball.

In Ukraine, Trembetska studied international economic relations. The program didn’t suit her, so she altered her career plans and switched to a double major in marketing and behavioral finance with a minor in psychology at Saint Vincent. “The biggest thing [about America] is the career opportunities,” Trembetska said. “If you want something, and you’re willing to work very hard for it, you can get it. There is almost nothing impossible here.”

Trembetska has work-study jobs with the Office of Global Community Engagement and the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government. This summer, she volunteered to mentor high school students during Crossroads Foundation’s annual Saint Vincent College Week.

A member of Alpha Lamba Delta national honors society, Trembetska has made three appearances on the Dean’s List. Last fall, she was among the students featured on Amazon Prime’s “The College Tour” episode about Saint Vincent.

“Marta is an extremely hardworking person,” said Dr. Michael Urick, C’04, dean of the McKenna School. “She does a great job as a student assistant in the McKenna School office because she is so driven to learn and succeed. As a student assistant, she interacts with visitors, answers calls and engages in other meaningful tasks that help the office function. She does each of these in a positive and friendly way. This, along with her drive, will ensure success in her career.”


Marta Trembetska with her family in Ukraine.

Marta Trembetska (left) with her brother, Vitaliy (center); mother, Ixana (right); and father, Roman (back row) in Ukraine.

Marta Trembetska and her friend, Anna Sarabun, in traditional costume for a folk dance called the Hopak.

Marta Trembetska (right) and her friend, Anna Sarabun, in traditional costume for a folk dance called the Hopak. The photo was taken before they performed in Lviv to raise money for the Ukrainian army.