By Matthew Cimitile, University Communications and Marketing
Andrii Kostyrko will never forget the night of February 24, 2022, when Russian soldiers invaded his native Ukraine, where members of his family still lived.
“I remember that I was about to go to sleep around 10 p.m., which is 5 a.m. in Ukraine, when the war began, and I started receiving all these messages from family members,” said Kostyrko, a student at USF St. Petersburg. “They were running into bomb shelters not knowing what was going on.”
For nearly a year and a half, Kostyrko lived with the uncertainty and fear created by the war. Despite these circumstances, he was determined to stay on track and earn his Accounting degree.
Kostyrko will graduate summa cum laude at the University of South Florida’s Summer Commencement on August 5.
“I have always been very family connected. I know they are proud of me, and I want to fulfill their hope in me. I wouldn’t be who I am right now without them, so I feel I’m not just earning this degree for myself,” he said.
Raised in Kyiv, Kostyrko witnessed his country’s revolution in 2014, which led to the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, and the subsequent Russian invasion of Crimea. In 2017, he and his immediate family left their home for Tampa Bay to reunite with other family members while hoping to find greater stability.
Kostyrko, who was 15 at the time, used this newfound opportunity to excel in his studies.
He took advantage of dual-enrollment classes in high school and graduated early. He earned an associate degree at St. Petersburg College and then transferred to USF St. Petersburg through FUSE, a pathway program allowing students to earn their associate degree while guaranteeing admission into USF.
It was during his time at USF that war in the Ukraine broke out. Family and friends have remained in Kyiv throughout the duration of the conflict, experiencing the many effects of war, including air raid sirens, food shortages and ongoing power outages, sometimes up to three days.
“They are getting used to it, which is unfortunate,” he said.
Kostyrko said it was the USF community – such as Accounting Professors Heather Lively, Luke Richardson and Christine Andrews, as well as advisors like Julie Harding - that sustained him through this trying time.
“My professors and advisors were so supportive and flexible, always checking in and allowing me to move some of my in-person classes online as I tried to calm myself down,” he said. “At the end of the day, I was able to go through that and stay on course and achieve my goals despite what was taking place in the world. I’m very thankful.”
Ever since he was a child, Kostyrko enjoyed mathematical equations and puzzles, especially the creativity of trying to solve problems in his head.
His passion for accounting began at St. Petersburg College, when he realized the various career possibilities in the field, from preparing taxes to analyzing financial statements to conducting audits. He saw it as a way to utilize his love of math in a more creative manner.
As he progressed in his studies at USF St. Petersburg, he joined Beta Alpha Psi, the international honor society for accounting, finance and information system students. Kostyrko took advantage of their extensive mentorship program, where students benefit from the experience and career advice from working professionals. He credits his mentor with also helping him stay on track with his studies and providing helpful advice as he determined his own path after graduation.
“The USF Accounting Program and Beta Alpha Psi were so beneficial to me and to many students,” he said. “It gave us the education, the resources, the support and the networking opportunities with professionals that is really setting me up for the future,” he said.
Kostyrko will be attending graduate school for Accounting at USF this fall. He plans to pursue his Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license in the state of Florida.
And down the road, he hopes to join Beta Alpha Psi as an accounting professional, so he can inspire other accounting students throughout their educational and professional journeys.