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A Bellarmine Student’s Inspiring Journey: Navigating Tennis, Academics and Familial Separation Amidst War

By Harry Boyce

Kramarova smiles for her Bellarmine Roster Headshot.

Yeva Kramarova is a Bellarmine tennis player from Ukraine who moved to the U.S. on an athletics scholarship in 2021.

Kramarova had already began playing international tournaments in countries like Turkey at age 13. She and her parents decided early that she would use her skills to be able to attend university in the United States.

She originally attended Tyler Junior College in Texas at 17 before transferring to Bellarmine. “Bellarmine has one of the best tennis programs in Kentucky, I’d say,” she said.

However, Kramarova also was focused on her studies, noting the quality of the business school at Bellarmine was also an important factor for her.

She found out she would be unable to return home during winter break of 2022 because of the war in Ukraine. It has been two years since she has been home.

Kramarova and her parents posed for a family photo prior to her departure.

Kramarova was granted “temporary protected status” as a Ukrainian because of the “severe economic hardship” resulting from the war. This allows her to work anywhere in the U.S., according to Sarah Stephens, Bellarmine’s student care coordinator. Most international students “aren’t granted that ability,” Stephens said.

Kramarova cannot travel abroad in general because she may not be able to return to the U.S., Stephens said. Although there is a travel visa that can allow this, Kramarova, who has applied for one, said, “It has been four months now… and you are not guaranteed to get it.”

Kramarova said she deeply misses her family. “When I figured out I would not be able to go home for the winter, that was the most heartbreaking part,” she said, “my family and I were always close growing up.”

Yet, she said she has remained positive throughout the two years of separation. She worked several summer jobs and acclimated to life in the U.S.

Emilio Vila, a friend from Tyler Junior College said, “She seemed really excited to live in the college experience and make new friends, especially with the tennis team.”

Vila also said Kramarova was able to balance academics and athletics easily. “As a 17-year-old who travelled to the other side of the world, it can be difficult to keep up with school and sports,” he said, “but Yeva never had any issues with that.”

Upon her transfer to Bellarmine, Kramarova was welcomed to the team.

“She immediately fit into the tennis team as one of the leaders,” junior Vendy Kryslova from the Czech Republic said, “She also immediately became one of my best friends and I look up to her everyday.” A teammate, Kate Tikhonko from Belarus, said, “I think she adjusted to the new environment very quickly and she’s setting a great example for the freshmen on the team.”

Kramarova coached tennis to children over summer 2022.

Kramarova won her singles match in the spring season’s opener at Indiana University on Jan. 15.

Kramarova said her family’s abundance of support and her busy schedule helped her with the adjustment.

Kramarova said she remains optimistic, despite her challenging situation. “You have to keep trusting what’s happening,” she said. “One should not be afraid to miss home, I had to understand that.”


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