Ukrainian teenager Victoria Balakshyna, a high school cheerleader, has been honored at San Jose’s Mt. at Pleasant High School

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — The quintessential high school experience for every student-athlete involves being recognized on Senior Night. On Thursday, the loudspeakers at the football stadium of Mt. Pleasant High School announced, “Victoria Balakshyna!”

The evening party marked the last game the adults would ever play or enjoy.

For 17-year-old Victoria Balakshyna, it’s a thought she never expected to make.

Victoria’s aunt, Iryna Duhring, helped ABC7 News with the translation.

“Because she’s seen a lot of movies where she’s seen all this, you know, American culture that you do… So she’s very happy,” Duhring said of Victoria’s experience as a cheerleader. “He’s really into it, and it gives him strength after what he’s been through.”

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The young man and his mother arrived from Ukraine in May after the Russian invasion. However, Victoria’s father was not allowed to travel and lives overseas.

In San Jose, the teenager is involved in schoolwork and cheerleading. He explained that it is a game that is unmatched at home. The young man even enjoyed the simple American traditions.

“Lockers! You say this is a big thing, because we don’t have that in Ukraine at all,” Duhring translated. “And the lockers are something he saw in the movie too.”

However, unlike the movies, the experience of Victoria is real and fun.

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A young man is traveling in what seems like a new world, while his country is still at war.

“From the other side, he’s glad he’s here,” Duhring translated. And sometimes he feels guilty that he is here and that other people stayed there, like his father. But at the same time, he understands that his father is happy that he is safe and can enjoy life.

From San Jose, Victoria congratulates her family.

“Slava Ukraini,” Victoria told ABC7 News.

“He says, ‘Slava Ukraini,'” his aunt followed, “This is our saying when we say, ‘Safe to all Ukraine.’

HOW TO HELP: Local and national support for the people of Ukraine

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