Victoria grew up in the small town of Baranivka in the Zhytomyr region in an ordinary family. Her parents never traveled outside Ukraine, so from the age of 12, she started earning on her own as she aimed to pursue higher education abroad. She admits that in this desire, she could only rely on herself.
During her teenage years, Victoria received a grant from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs - FLEX program, through which she attended high school in the U.S. and then a university in Lithuania after graduation. However, she only studied there for a year. According to Victoria, she realized she couldn't spend four years in one place.
That's when she learned about the Ukraine Global Scholars organization, which helps Ukrainian children receive education abroad, including in the United States.
"I grew up in a small community, and after learning English and going to America through FLEX, I realized there are many interesting things beyond Ukraine. I always thought: We are such a big and free country, so why can't we take our resources and use them to become a country we can be proud of?
I realized that to achieve this, we need to learn from the experiences of other countries. So, I had a plan to go study, work for some time, gain experience, return to Ukraine, and make it the best country in the world," recalls Victoria.
At 15, through the FLEX program, she went to study in Texas, where she lived for a year. After studying in Lithuania, she enrolled in her dream university, as she calls it, Minerva University.
"It's a university based in California, but its most interesting principle is that you travel and live in different countries every semester," she explains.
In her first year of study, Victoria lived in San Francisco. Later, her geography expanded significantly, and she continued gaining knowledge and experience in South Korea, India, the UK, Germany, Argentina, Taiwan, and more.
"There, I studied two majors: computer science and statistics and business and finance. I was most interested in combining and using statistics and Data Science in business and finance.
During my last two years, I wrote a research paper on the topic of M&A (Mergers and Acquisitions) of large companies. During my studies, I worked in startups, such as an Investment Analyst, Data Analyst, Financial Manager. My two majors always intertwined in my work," says Goncharuk.
After graduation in 2022, Victoria worked in investment banking at Citigroup in the Investment Banking Department with technology companies, as well as in the investment banking division of the large holding Morgan Stanley in New York.
From Wall Street to the front lines
When full-scale war began, Victoria's entire family—her sister, mom, and dad—decided to join Ukraine's defenders.
In the initial months of the invasion, Victoria engaged in volunteer work, dedicating her efforts to aid her relatives and the units where they served.
"My goal was to provide my family and their units with everything they needed. It started as my small project, then turned into an NGO registered in the UK. I was doing this before I came to Ukraine," the young woman recounts.
Victoria raised funds and handled the procurement of tactical medical supplies. Thanks to her sister, who worked in medical evacuation, Vika always knew where and when supplies were required. However, she couldn't stay in the States for long. In the winter of 2022, she decided she needed to return to Ukraine and "help hands-on.
Admitting that this decision was a "big leap" for her, she mentally prepared for the worst—living "under the open sky in puddles" and not eating. Despite this, she emphasizes that she didn't hesitate for a moment about leaving the warm New York office to assist her family and her country.
"I worked on Wall Street in the country's largest bank. The day before I went to Ukraine, we had a big formal event with clients, and the next morning, I was on a plane to Ukraine, putting on a uniform and going out. It was winter, cold. A massive contrast.
I prepared myself for this, and it's what I deeply desired. As soon as I found the opportunity to be at the forefront, work hands-on, be part of the units, everything fell into place," says Victoria after a year of service as a combat medic.
By the way, she acquired the necessary skills for working as a paramedic at the Hospitallers Training Center, learned from her sister and other combat medics, and gained the rest through experience on the front lines.
About the Toughest Choice
Victoria assists in one of the hottest area - Bahmut. Before that, she worked in Avdiivka. Now she's the head of her crew, having served as a paramedic in a brigade where her sister serves for nearly six months.
As the medic explains, there are two stages of evacuating the wounded: "casevac" and "medevac." "Casevac" refers to the initial evacuation from the frontline when armored vehicles or pickups drive into the toughest territories and evacuate the injured.
"Medevac" involves a medical team that picks up the injured from the "casevac" and evacuates them to a stabilization point. Initially, Vika worked on "casevac" and then moved to "medevac."
On the "medevac" team, there must always be a person with higher or incomplete medical education.
According to Victoria, her team has changed multiple times during her year of service because the individuals working with her do so on a volunteer basis. Many have primary jobs, alternating with volunteering. "They work for a month, then spend a month with me. Currently, the most stable members of my team are my driver and me. My driver's cousin is my sister's commander, who unfortunately passed away in August this year, just as we started working with them. My driver and I bonded over our shared loss and continue working together. The third person is a doctor," Victoria shares.
The paramedic also discussed the most challenging moments she faced during a year of frontline work. According to her, the hardest part is making decisions in situations where the lives of other people depend on them.
Amidst the challenges faced today, Victoria fondly recalls her training and experiences abroad, stating that working on Wall Street toughened her because, at times, the work was demanding and exhausting, staying awake for days or even weeks until you complete what needs to be done.
"Here it's the same. If the enemy storms, we don't sleep; we work. Sometimes, you just have to wait, much like waiting four hours on Wall Street until someone sends you a financial model. Here you wait for the call. Very transferable skills," she says with a smile.
In addition to her work as a paramedic, Victoria also participates in military-tech projects with Ukrainian developers.
"I consider the development, utilization, and implementation of AI in military operations as one of the main priorities," emphasizes Victoria.
Everyone I want to spend my time with is at war
As Victoria recounts, short breaks from work exist for her, but she still lives with her crew. She admits it's hard to see people in the rear who "disconnect from the war and think it won't affect them."
"I have literally 2-3 friends left. Unfortunately, there's no desire even to talk to them now; I still live with my crew. I definitely spent one day with my parents and another day eating everything I wanted, and that's it; I can go back. There's no connection because of this. Everyone I want to spend my time with is at war. When we have a few days off, we come back to civilian life with those people we live with on the frontline and live in our bubble," Victoria says.
Considering how her life and realities have changed, she emphasizes that she regrets none of her choices. Responding to what advice she'd give her 15-year-old self if she could, Victoria said:
"Well done. I have nothing I'd regret. I'd work more on my physical fitness. I'd tell her that no matter what profession or lifestyle she chooses, she needs to be strong and in her best shape because it's physically challenging now."
She firmly believes that the fight for Ukraine is not just men's duty but the duty of all of its citizens.
"Love for Ukraine is cultivated, and it doesn't necessarily start from an early age. It's not something you can kill. My sister and I are probably very good examples," Victoria concludes. #Hospitallers #Paramedics #UkraineParamedics #HospitallersUkraine #HospitallersUK #HelpHospitallers #Ukraine #SupportUkraine #HelpUkraine #StandWithUkraine #HelpUkraineNow