Barely old enough to get a driving permit in the U.S., 16-year-old Canadian-born Uliana Trylowsky boarded a plane that would take her to Switzerland – the first foreign land to be home for a time to the young girl, but far from the last.
“Some people may think my parents were crazy for doing that, but coming from their background it really didn’t seem that way,” Trylowsky said.
Parents Sophia and Bohdan Trylowsky were world-travelers, although their move abroad was not a mere choice, but a necessity. The couple was not even native Canadian, originally hailing from a portion of Nazi-occupied Poland later known as the Ukraine during the time of World War II.
“They were constantly at the mercy of the German soldiers who were ‘employing’ them,” Uliana emotionally told a group of local and international scholars who met at the Mary and John Gray Library Reception room of Lamar University on Monday, April 15, to celebrate an annual induction ceremony of the Beta Xi Chapter of the Phi Beta Delta honor society. “My mother was 5 years old when she was moved from her home to Germany.”
Uliana said her parents’ background produced in her a want to bridge the cultural gap created by manmade borders. After studying in Geneva, Uliana took her mission abroad, pursuing peace and goodwill in foreign lands such as Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Russia and the Republic of Georgia. While in Georgia working with the Soros Foundation promoting unification of countries and cultures torn apart by the Soviet Union’s collapse, Uliana was a firsthand witness to the corruption and brutality that occurs when a society is in an elevated state of civil unrest.
“When I began my adventures in Georgia, I was told we were required to do certain things,” Uliana said. First, her group would hire only local staffers, and second, they were to stay out of the way of those running amok. “Mafia groups seemed to rule the commerce in the cities, and the police were either powerless to stop it or didn’t care.”
Still, Uliana wasn’t deterred in her mission. Those young, hopeful faces that came to her Georgian offices kept her steadfast in her duties.
“Often I would see myself in their bright eyes and in their futures,” she said. “But I also saw the eyes of my mother.
“My parents’ lives changed as the result of international exchanges, whether it was by choice they were introduced or not. Understanding, knowledge and an exchange of experiences makes the world a smaller, more familiar, and better place to live.”
A life so full of foreign and domestic exploits touching a countless number of lives was hard to detail in the brief time allowed at the Lamar ceremony, but those in attendance sat in awe of the petite woman telling tales only heard by most Americans on the evening news. The group was not unfamiliar with Uliana’s experiences, however, most themselves goodwill ambassadors of some form.
Following her speech, Uliana was given an honorary membership to the group, then Phi Beta Delta President Catalina Castillon, past president Cristina Rios and president elect Jesse Doiron introduced new inductees into the chapter.
New Lamar faculty members inducted into the club included Dr. Cristian Bahrim, Dr. Rebecca Boone, Andrew H.T. Coughlan, Dr. Jim L. Jordan, Dr. Alberto Marquez, Dr. Donna M. Meeks, Dr. Carl J. Sheperis, Dr. Kevin Smith, and Dr. Johanna F. Yunker. New student members were named in Chelsea Barnard, Michael Black, Benjamin Bonsall, Caitlin Duerler, Honour Harry, Amy Morgan, Gwendolyn Mumford, William Pickard and Jennifer Torry.
Phi Beta Delta is dedicated to recognizing scholarly achievement in international education. Founded in 1986, the organization has grown to become an international society with over 180 chapters. The Lamar University Beta Xi chapter was chartered in 1991 but remained relatively inactive until 2012.
Although new to the Phi Beta Delta family, Lamar members have made their presence known in the club. LU’s own Elizabeth Maxwell stood out above nominees from all other chapters to earn the prestigious Marian Beane/Charles Glizzio Domestic Student Award for International Achievement. Other nominees for the award from Lamar included Majed Al-Bokhari and Dr. Pamela Saur.