Ten of Ukraine’s top teenage math geniuses have recently landed in Israel and are now starting a specially-created program at Bar-Ilan University's International School.
The school, led by executive director Ofer Dahan, prepared a special interdisciplinary academic curriculum as well as provided the participants with visas and housing, all tailored to the new Ukrainian students’ needs.
“It’s heartbreaking that these youngsters need to leave home to continue normal life, but we were determined to give them the chance to do so,” said Bar-Ilan University president Prof. Arie Zaban.
Some of the students are in their early teens and away from home for the first time. “My mother took me as far as Poland but then I had to say goodbye,” said 14-year-old Leonid Diachenko from Kyiv.
“It was really hard to say goodbye to my mom because I don’t know when I’ll see her. It could be a long time and I think lots about the safety of my whole family, but I have to live with this," Diachenko said.
"I’m excited about being here in Israel. It’s giving me exactly what I’ve wanted, in spite of the war which is disrupting the dreams of so many people from our country.”
“One moment all my academic hopes were halted due to the war, and the next, I’m starting university studies at age 16 in Israel,” said Boris Holikov from Dnipro. “I grabbed the opportunity almost straight away, as I know I won't regret it.”
Notable contributors to the project include Google and StarkWare.
“It’s very personal for me as I know the Ukrainian coaches from competitions — and my colleagues identify strongly with the team. Numbers are an international language, and at every contest we see math bringing together kids from everywhere," said Dr. Dan Carmon, one of StarkWare's engineers and a coach on the Israel youth math team.
"We were crushed by the plight of the Ukrainian team, and this bond made us determined to take action. I feel it’s a privilege to help bring them to safety," he said.
“In just a few weeks we’ve pulled together a program that would normally take months of planning. But extreme times call for extreme efforts,” Bar-Ilan CEO Zohar Yinon said.
“From now until October the youth will take courses in math, computer science, and physics, and will learn Hebrew, as well. They will receive university credits and some of the students are expected to segue into bachelor’s degree studies in October.”