INMAN, SC (WSPA) – When Virsavia Gumenyuk suits up for the Inman Fire Department at the scene of an emergency, it’s not only what she does, but it’s what she says to victims.
Gumenyuk grew up in Philadelphia but with a difference. Her mother is from Moscow and her father is Ukrainian.
“So, I had to be fluent in Russian and Ukrainian due to the fact that the household only knew that language,” Guenyuk said in finely spoken English.
Gumenyuk started her career as a first responder as a detention center officer in the Upstate but felt becoming a firefighter would be a better pursuit.
“I wanted to not only fight fire, but I enjoy helping people out,” she told 7NEWS. “When it’s their worst day that they’re dealing with and also on the fact that it’s a language barrier for people like myself that are, you know, Russians and Ukrainians.”
There is a sizeable population of Russians and Ukrainians living in the Upstate of South Carolina. There are 4,367 people living in Spartanburg County who report Ukrainian ancestry according to the U.S. Census. Nearly 100 of them live within the Inman city limits.
“They don’t really put themselves out there,” according to Gumenyuk. “So, whenever there’s incidents where they try to talk, I immediately engage their conversation and say, ‘hey, look, I can help you out.'”
Gumenyuk, she said everyone just calls her V or Miss V, plans to stay in the community. She hopes to eventually advance into an officer position.
She also hopes someday that some of her fellow first responders will want to learn Russian and Ukrainian, so “they can help people out as well.”