TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — He’ll be the first to tell you — Danylo Solomentsev is a hard name to pronounce if you’re not Eastern European. But in the mass of names read at USF’s Yuengling Center on December 9, it stood out from the rest. It’s Ukrainian.

“I would say it’s a new chapter in my life,” Danylo Solomentsev said. “Which I was following for a long time, since I took a long academic break.”

The newly minted USF grad has already had enough chapters in his life to write a book. Solomentsev left his home country, Ukraine, in 2017, to study marketing in Tampa. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he went home for two years, then returned in January 2022 — just weeks before Russia invaded.

“It’s anger, it’s sadness, it’s frustration,” Solomentsev explained. “All at the same time.”

He knew war was on the horizon, and told his mother, Natalia, to pack a go bag. From there, she fled to Slovakia.

Now, Natalia is in Tampa for a week to see her son graduate.

“Of course I’m proud that he finally done this good job,” Natalia Solomentsev said.

Her return flight leaves just the morning after his graduation, but she said it’s been a nice break from the war and worry.

“Today they do, ‘Woo!’ loudly,” Natalia said. “Of course, I want the same for my son, too.”

And she got it, cheering loudly when his name was read and he crossed the stage.

He never fought in a battle, but he persevered like so many other Ukrainians, with his education.

“For me, to give up,” Solomentsev said. “It would be just to skip all of that work and all of that time and money which was put into myself.”

Solomentsev, forever the doting son, plans on flying to Slovakia to visit his mother and friends shortly. After that, it’s back to school.

He’s got a master’s degree at USF to get started on.