GRAND CHUTE, Wis. (WFRV) – Former Ukrainian journalist turned artist Irina Visnevscaia (Vish) is learning English at Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC).

As a former journalist, Vish enjoys telling stories and wanted to continue sharing the stories of what people have gone through in Ukraine through her artwork. Her specialty is painting kilims or rugs, and soon 24 of them will be displayed at the Villa Montezuma Museum in San Diego.

Translated by Vish’s daughter Anastasia Reetz, Vish says, “A lot of people being at my exhibitions would meet me and bring me their heirlooms, like their kilims, and would ask me to write a story about what their family went through. Every artwork has a story about somebody specifically.”

Since Vish began living with her daughter more than a year ago, she was spent her time learning English at FVTC through the college’s English Language Learning program.

“The existence of this program to refugees, to people like me at no cost, is amazing,” Vish says.

Vish is originally from Odesa, Ukraine. She hopes to return home over the summer.

She recounted the war in her country, saying, “Nobody could even imagine. The feeling of war was in the air, but nobody wanted to believe in that. Everybody obviously knew there was something starting on the east side of Ukraine but couldn’t imagine that it would touch everybody’s homes.”

Vish also says she hopes Americans can take something away from her story.

“The important thing to know for Americans, because you guys have a beautiful life here, is to treasure it. Everything is not a given, and be grateful and treasure everything you have,” Vish states.

In addition to her 24 rugs, Vish’s exhibit will also feature 8 of her paintings.