Students in Khali (Haji) Dokhanchi POSCI 101:001 class had a guest speaker from Ukraine speaking out about her family’s journey of 3800 kilometers (2361 miles) from Kherson, Ukraine to Lloret de Mar, Spain.

Zhanna Shypulia

Жанна Шипуля (Zhanna Shypulia) is a teacher and lived in Kherson, Ukraine, and didn’t believe like many other Ukrainians in her area that Russia would actually invade. “We didn’t believe that Russia would actually invade Ukraine since it’s the 21st century.” Shypulia told the class.

At 5 a.m. on February 24, Shypulia’s husband woke her up to gather their belongings as the Russians invaded. She packed just some clothes, her diplomas, her Ukrainian and international passports and left with her 18 month son, husband, mother, and grandmother.


“We just put everything fast in the car and we go away.” Shypulia’s family left Kherson at 8 a.m. Feb. 24. “We followed the navigator to where to go and if you see something in the sky, just say beef and we will stop somewhere. As we were driving, we kept looking in the sky.” Their first night as refugees was spent on the church floor in Kherson where they slept on the floors with blankets provided by the church.

Their next stop was on the Ukrainian border with Romania and Moldova where they stayed for five days in a motel and had to split into two groups to cross the Romanian border. One being Shypulia, her son, and her mother.

The other was her husband and grandmother who had to wait 24 hours to cross the Romanian border since she didn’t have a passport. They later reunited in Romania.

Zhanna Shypulia and her son.

By Mar. 6, Shypulia’s family was in Budapest, Hungary, where they stayed at one of her Instagram follower’s house. “They gave us a cozy house, opportunity to wash our clothes and even prepared some food.” Shypulia updated on her Instagram.

One of Shypulia’s language students invited them over for their next stay in Milano, Italy, where they arrived on Mar. 12. By Mar. 14, Shypulia’s family arrived at the Ukrainian Embassy in Barcelona, Spain. The Red Cross later settled them in Lloret de Mar, Spain, which is just north of Barcelona.

Zhanna Shypulia has been teaching Russian as a foreign language since 2015. Her career started as private lessons but has since grown to an online course.

Her Instagram (@russian_up) has almost 36K followers and is one of the biggest accounts to teach Russian. Ukrainian support, Russian language courses, and her other socials are all linked in her Instagram.

Zhanna and her family at one of her follower’s house in Budapest.