As an immigrant myself, I understand the difficulties people experience when moving to another country. The culture, the language, the bureaucratic process, the unknown. I also include in my list of challenges – the distance from the people and the places you love.
In this blog, we are proud to highlight the extraordinary work, leadership, and strength of a Ukrainian athlete and immigrant: Kateryna (Kate) Maistrenko. This strong woman inspires youth in sports through rowing and supports kids who have lost everything, due to ongoing conflict in their country.
Daughter Of Two Ukrainian Athletes and Olympians Dreams To Follow In Their Steps
Kateryna was born and raised in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. She is the daughter of two Olympic rowing athletes and coaches. She is working towards becoming one of the best rowers in the world, and representing her country. In fact, she just finished fourth in the single scull at the biggest regatta in the world: Head Of The Charles Regatta. Like her parents, she wants to become an Olympian and be the best in everything she does.
Anatolil and Valentyna, Kate’s parents, own a rowing training center in Kyiv, they give opportunities and resources to low-income and orphan kids to follow their dream to become rowing athletes. Kate grew up in this community and has developed a passion for helping others to succeed.
While growing up in Ukraine, one of her coaches encouraged Kate to study in the United States to participate on a university rowing team with an athletic scholarship. She loved the ideas and took the opportunity to move to the USA to study and train. With barely any knowledge of the English language, she embarked on a big adventure full of hope. When she came to college in the US to attend Washington State University, she quickly realized she wanted to be much more than a Ukrainian athlete. Four (4) years later, Maistrenko obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Economic Science from Washington State University. While earning her degree, she kept her passion for rowing alive by participating on the rowing team for Washington State University Athletics.
The Unexpected Breakout Of War And Protection Of A Community
While Kate was 6,000 miles from home, in 2022, the Russians invaded Ukraine and devastated her home, her city, her family’s rowing training camp, and the dreams of thousands of people. Being so far from home was very difficult for Kate. She is trying to live life as normal without knowing if her family and friends are safe.
Her parents decided to stay in Kyiv to look after more than 300 kids who were attending the rowing camp and had lost everything. To keep safe, they were mainly staying in the basement of the Maistrenkos’ country house, stuck inside, sleeping on the floor, and feeling desperate. However, her parents are trying to help these kids to keep a positive attitude, they are helping them to stay healthy with enough food to keep everyone going. It has been very stressful for everyone as their two sons (Kate’s brothers) are active on the front lines, serving as soldiers in the war.
During these difficult times, rowing has been a way for Kate to find an answer to many of these challenges. Rowing has become a lifesaver, especially after the invasion of Ukraine. According to Kate, “you just get in a boat and switch off and enjoy it”.
Humanitarian Aid Through Community Awareness
Even from a distance, Kateryna has found a way to support her people back in Ukraine. She asked for prayer, and these prayers turned into over 24,000 individual impressions on LinkedIn, which resulted in more than $850,000 in donations to support humanitarian aid in Ukraine directly. These funds went directly to IGOs, NGOs, sympathetic individuals, and organizations.
All the money she raised has been used to help her people. Kate has not kept any of these funds in direct support of herself. We, at Believe In Me, want to honor these unselfish actions full of love, hope, and strength. Kate epitomizes the characteristics sought in leaders worldwide who use sports as a vehicle to advocate for change.
Believe in Me Hero of the Year Award
Inspired by these stories and those who are changing the world, we created the Believe in Me Hero of the Year award for 2022. We want to recognize real-world heroes who are making big efforts to help those in need to believe in themselves, create hope, make a difference, and create a better world around us!
For these reasons, we proudly announce that the first Believe in Me Hero of the Year recipient is Kateryna Maistrenko. This award honors the impact she’s made in the lives of so many Ukrainian kids back in her home country, inspiring young athletes and promoting STEM education for women in the region.
Believing In Kateryna And Her Journey As An Athlete To Become An Olympian
Our vision is to help every kid develop the self-confidence they need to succeed. In support of Kateryna’s dream to become an Olympian, and represent Ukraine, we have also awarded a $17,550 scholarship. This funding will cover the cost of the training that’s necessary for preparing for the 2023 World Rowing Championships.
The life of a professional athlete is not easy and it’s quite costly. It requires a lot of discipline, determination, and passion. This scholarship will cover the costs of her registration for high-performance training at a rowing training center in Seattle, additional strength and conditioning training, gear and equipment for rowing, registration fees for competitions, travel expenses, and physical therapy until September 2023. We are proud to support Kate in her quest for the Olympics and excited to watch her journey.