From Ukraine to USA: An educational journey

From Ukraine to USA: An educational journey

By Todd Travis

Escaping religious persecution

Angela Grabovsky was born in Odessa, Ukraine and lived there for 23 years. She and her family moved to the United States in 1989 as political and religious refugees. “Under the former Soviet Union, the government was propagating antisemitism and enforcing strict quotas for the Jewish population, and my family is of Jewish descent,” Grabovsky explained. “Only 1% of the Jewish population was allowed to be involved in education and the same was happening with employment. Since our nationality was written in our passport, we had no way around it.” Grabovsky and her family saw an opportunity when former President Reagan made his famous speech in West Berlin, Germany, at the Bradenburg Gate and asked Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union, to take down the iron curtain and open up the borders. “This is a day I will remember as long as I live,” Grabovsky mentioned. That moment was a catalyst that helped the Grabovskys escape persecution and find freedom coming to the United States.

The family bravely left their home country, giving up their citizenship, and came to America with just one suitcase and $72 each. None of them spoke any English, but they now had hope for a better life. After three months of learning English, Grabovsky took a job cleaning rooms at the Radisson Hotel at Keystone at the Crossing (now Sheraton Indianapolis Hotel at Keystone Crossing). She made $3.25 per hour and could not be happier about it. “In our minds, independence was very important. We didn’t want to take money from the government, and we would work 24/7 to make sure we wouldn’t have to do so,” Grabovsky recalled.

Learning the system

The next step for Grabovsky was to educate herself about this new country she lived in and find out how things work. “In order to be successful in any country I think people need to learn about the economy and the political system,” she asserted. She began taking classes at IUPUI such as finance, accounting, law and government. Her goal wasn’t to get a degree since she already had a nursing degree from Ukraine. She wanted to learn as much about this country as possible since it operates so differently than her former country. On top of that she wanted to continue improving her English. After a year, she took the nursing board and became a Registered Nurse. “I was the first foreign nurse in Indiana, and they had no idea what to do with me.” Grabovsky joked.

Angela Grabovsky. (Photo courtesy of Angela Grabovsky)

Financial education

While Grabovsky enjoyed the relational aspect of nursing, it started to become difficult for her to deal with the emotional disappointments that inevitably come with the career. “The people that came in for treatments became like family and it became difficult to deal with losing friends along the way,” she noted. She also began to develop an interest in finance and the way money works in the United States. “We didn’t understand home ownership, owning a car and having credit. It was unfathomable to us to even think that you would live in a house and have a 30-year mortgage,” she continued. This eventually led Grabovsky to pursue training with a financial planning, wealth management firm. From there, she went on to start her own firm, Impact Financial Group, which is now one of the largest financial firms in the United States. “We help people with everything from budgeting to looking forward to accomplish their dreams,” she said.

Giving back

From making just $3.25 per hour to running her own business, independence has continued to be a high value for Grabovsky and her family. Her husband also started his own small business, Pete’s Service Center, and they are both teaching their kids to hold the same strong values for work ethic and independence. Now that they have been able to achieve a certain level of success, they have begun to focus on giving back and helping others with the tools and knowledge they have acquired. One specific way they have done so is through a company they started, which was her son’s idea, which helps provide housing for people with disabilities. After 12 years, Apex Realty Group has become one of the largest real estate companies in Indiana that provides housing for people with physical and mental disabilities. “Under our umbrella we have around 600 people who are in need of housing and have found it with our company.” Grabovsky noted.

Next step: running for Congress

Looking back on her experiences in America after leaving Ukraine, Grabovsky has found a passion for helping people become more educated when it comes to our own economic system. “I think the problem is that they forgot what it is all about, and they have so many issues on a daily basis that they don’t have the time to stop and think what the future can look like,” she commented. “I’m a very strong believer in education. I think it plays a critical role in social and economic development. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to succeed.” To help address this problem, Grabovsky has decided to run for Congress. “We got to the point where we had three businesses and three children that are going to be taking over them, and we feel that we accomplished what we set to accomplish. We feel that we want to show gratitude to our country and to Hoosiers. It’s what I was put on earth to do,” Grabovsky stated.

Angela attended and spoke at a rally on March 5, on Monument Circle to stand in support of those in Ukraine. (Photo by Sam Zachrich Photography)

Grabovsky will be running as a Republican for the U.S. House Indiana District 7 in the primary election on May 3. Other Republican candidates running for Congress in District 7 include Bill Allen, Rusty Johnson, Jennifer Pace and Gerald Walters. Democrat candidates include incumbent, Andre Carson, as well as Curtis Godfrey and Pierre Quincy Pullins.

For more information about Grabovsky’s story and her campaign for Congress, visit

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