From Ukraine, with Love

Golden Valley High School student Tim Kashchenko comes on the field with his teammates before the game against Hart High School on October 26, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal

By Patti Rasmussen
Signal Staff Writer

He’s only been in the United States for three years, but Tymofii Kashchenko, who goes by Tim, finds California kids very much like those he knew in the Ukraine.

Walking into Golden Valley High School as a freshman in 2015, Tim had just turned 14 and knew no English. His teachers found him friendly, open and charismatic.

“He’s very unique and makes friends easily,” said Arian Wilson, an English language teacher assigned to Tim the first day. “We didn’t have anyone in the district who spoke Russian, so it was a matter of using the computer and pointing at a lot of pictures.”

In his sophomore year, Tim took World History with Eric Harris, who also serves as an assistant football coach at the school. The invasion of Ukraine had just happened, and now Harris had a student in his class who witnessed the war first-hand. Tim was not shy about the sights and sounds of war, Harris said, and Tim has a passion for history.

“We knew a revolution was coming,” Tim said. “Just before Christmas, people were on the streets protesting and then everyone just started shooting.”

Tim’s father worked for TicketMaster in Southern California, and it was at this time he told his family to come to America. Tim, his mother, little brother and younger sister all came over.

Tim said the people of the Ukraine are peaceful, but weak. He believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is a bully, and that Russia is corrupt.

“We joke (about Putin) much like Americans make fun of (President) Trump,” Tim said.

When asked about the state of American politics, Tim hasn’t ruled out voting for Trump when he becomes a citizen, although he admits he will be keeping his options open. He thinks Trump is a smart man, but needs to think smarter.

“I’m cool with building a wall,” Tim said. “but (Trump) needs to be more realistic.”

At a recent assembly, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla was there to speak to the students about the importance of voting. Tim was one of just a handful of students who approached the secretary to ask questions. Tim believes Padilla’s talk was more about getting votes than actually understanding the concerns of high school students.

As for friends, Tim doesn’t find it hard to make friends, but he said it’s hard to keep them because of the distance between homes in the suburbs. His old neighborhood was mainly apartment buildings.

“In the Ukraine, we lived on top of each other,” he said. “If my friend lived on the sixth floor, I would see him every day and say, ‘Hey brother.’”

Asked to name his favorite American restaurant, Tim said Denny’s because, “They make good milkshakes.”

And while he hasn’t tried surfing yet, he enjoys snowboarding and loves playing American football on the varsity team at Golden Valley. He listens to heavy metal music and both of his football coaches gifted him T-shirts with heavy metal bands displayed on them, after his favorite one was ripped during practice. The T-shirts are his favorite articles of clothing.

As for the future, Tim says he needs a little more time to decide on a career, so he hopes to attend College of the Canyons after high school. The cinema and history are two areas he’d like to explore.

These days, however, Tim is enjoying his senior year. He has taken on a California look, and loves just about everyone he meets. Principal Sal Frias said Tim is well-liked.

“He is grateful and respectful,” Frias said. “Every time I see him walking around campus, he has a big smile.”


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