Chelsea Whitehurst’s service as a Peace Corps volunteer came to an abrupt end this year when political and civil unrest in Ukraine cut short her assignment there.
The Augusta Prep alumna stopped by the school on Friday for a visit with the Russian language class, to answer questions and discuss her experiences in Ukraine as a youth development volunteer.
Whitehurst, a recent graduate of Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., said she was invited to come back to her alma mater by Laura Johnson, her former English teacher and the school’s director of College Counseling.
Whitehurst was one of more than 200 Peace Corps volunteers who were evacuated from Ukraine on Feb. 24, after the former government cracked down on ongoing protests. The previous day’s violence resulted in the deaths of 26 people, including several police officers.
Whitehurst said she had arrived in Ukraine in March 2013, and spent the first three months in training with other Peace Corps volunteers just outside of the capital of Kiev. A large part of the training included language training, she said.
“We had four hours of Russian, each day,” she said.
In June, she was assigned to a secondary school of about 250 children in the village of Konstantinouka in southeast Ukraine.
Whitehurst said the civil unrest, known as Euromaidan, which began in November in Kiev, did not have any direct effect on her work until earlier this year when the political climate there became more uncertain.
In February, she and other volunteers were consolidated to another school, while Peace Corps officials determined the best course of action.
“For me everything changed the last day of Maidan when people were killed,” Whitehurst said. “That day there was a lot of uncertainty. This was a very big shock to the Ukraine people.
A day later, they were abruptly evacuated from the country. After a period of evaluation, the Peace Corps determined she and the other volunteers would not be returning to Ukraine. She was released from the Peace Corps on April 14, she said.
After visiting with her parents, who live in Aiken, Whitehurst said she will be moving to pursue a career in New York. Although she has stayed in contact with some friends in Ukraine, Whitehurst said she was a little weary of the reports continued political unrest there.
“I stopped reading the news two days ago,” she said.