My name is Ivan Struzhko. I was born in Mariupol, Ukraine.
I started to write this post for the blog within the ETUT project six months ago. However, the notes making has appeared to be the most efficient way of writing a blog. All the time I was turning between the two lines of the story. In the end, the new event caused a correction in my plan. I decided to mix these approaches and do it as short as possible.
Part 1. Introduction, my background.
Let’s briefly indicate the main points of my background.
In 2015 I received a master’s degree in Electrical Power Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Electromechanics with honors. The M.Sc. research topic was “Impact of the high-frequency voltage components on the cable line operation”. During my study, I was working as an electrician on the repair and maintenance of electrical equipment at the machine-building plant PJSC “Azovobschemash” and utility company “MariupolTeploMerezha”. After graduating my wife and I were invited to the Energy Department of the machine-building plant PJSC “Armavirskiy Machine-Building Plant”. I was an electric and power energy engineer. My responsibilities included a wide range of subjects. From providing operation, maintenance, repair, and retroﬁtting of the electrical and power equipment to involvement in the testing and commissioning procedures developed for electrical and power equipment. I enjoyed this kind of work. It was a strictly practical application of my knowledge and abilities. Some things came easy with immediate success, while others required more experience and proficiency. But each mistake was a good lesson and provided invaluable experience.
In 2019 we came back to Mariupol – my native city.
By this time the war in Ukraine has been going on, though in a quiet phase, for five years. Mariupol is a large industrial city on the Azov Sea. It had been under occupation for several months during active fighting and one district has been shelled in 2015. The rest of the time it is a town that is directly on the border of the Ukrainian-controlled part. Despite this, Mariupol had undergone a remarkable transformation and continued to develop until 2022, but more on this later.
I received the proposal from the Head of the Department of Power Energy Systems as an assistant with the opportunity to write Ph.D. thesis. I was inspired by the idea. Woking at my maternal department, teaching electrical engineering students felt exciting and interesting! Although it was a low-paying and labor-intensive job, I weighed up the pros and cons and decided to follow the principle that the best job is one that comes out of a hobby you like. I was very lucky that my wife supported me in this decision.
Part 2. First steps in Science.
I immediately started working side by side with my supervisor Alexander Viktorovich Gorpynich. I was working on designing and developing training materials for various courses (e.g. Electrical Engineering, Microprocessor- and microcontroller-based Technologies, Energy Security And Energy Eﬃciency, ect.). We decided to create a radically new plan of studies on microprocessor technology. I was keen on developing software and devices based on Arduino boards. So, in a year and a half, we developed new laboratory and practical works to replace outdated ones. With students, we designed smart home systems and a low-cost relay protection unit based on an Arduino Uno PCB.
Our department also received a grant from USAID to develop two new courses: Energy Saving and Efficiency, and Energy Independence. I was involved in designing new curricula, selecting equipment for the Alternative Energy Lab, and preparing materials for work in it.
At the same time, I became a Ph.D. student. The topic of my research was “Development of methods and techniques for comprehensive condition monitoring and diagnostics of capacitors at the distorted voltage waveform”. The main objective was, as indicated in the title, to create the technology for the correct use and maintenance of frequency converters, especially in environments with high humidity and temperature. I faced this problem while working with heating boilers in previous jobs.
During my study, I developed a prototype of an autonomous device to measure and record environment temperature and humidity data in close proximity to the capacitor group in the frequency converter.
Part 3. ETUT is coming.
At the end of 2020, my supervisor told me about recruitment for the project relevant to EMC and power electronics – ETUT and proposed to take part in it. Next six months I was preparing all necessary documents, presentations for the interview, and intensive English courses. And on the 27 of May was the online meeting with my supervisors. It lasted 30 minutes, but for me, it flew by in the blink of an eye. Immediately after I left the conference, I couldn’t be more excited.
Even though I had answered almost everything, there was still the feeling that I had failed and perhaps this was not my lucky day. However, at the same time, it was replaced by the sense that I had done all I could. I have to wait for the results.
Two days later I received a WhatsApp call from prof. Leferink. It was a group call to me and Cathrine Feloups. I remember the precise phrase professor Leferink said to us: “I have bad news for you. You will have to resign and move to Enschede”. I couldn’t believe it. I was fascinated: all that I had done was not in vain, all my worries and efforts had been rewarded.
The preparation phase for departure has begun. At my university, I had to finish all the tasks (to conduct final exams and bring the bachelor to their thesis defense) and projects within the grant. As a result, our lab was ready, and all training materials were prepared and sent to the USAID for approval.
One of the necessary actions, searching for accommodation in Enschede and flight tickets, was made possible owing to the incomparable Lillian! And so, I have a visa, and tickets for Mariupol – Kyiv – Amsterdam – Enschede. I’m ready to go. The hardest decision to make was to arrange that I would move to the Netherlands alone. My wife and dog remain in Mariupol. Daria, my wife, didn’t want to lose her job. We decided that I should move to Enschede, find out how everything is arranged here, and she might then move too. On my way to Amsterdam, I was with very mixed feelings. I was overfilled with emotions. I was sad because I didn’t know when I could meet my family and friend in Mariupol again and, at the same time, I felt I would have a lot of unforgettable memories.
Part 4. New horizons.
Nevertheless, at 9:00 on the 1st of October, I was in the Carré lobby waiting for Lillian, who offered to meet me and lead me to the office.
At Coffee corner, my future colleagues were waiting for me. I was met with a pleasant and warm welcome. I briefly explained my background (as far as my knowledge of English was concerned) and got to know the rest of the team. From the very beginning, the atmosphere in the team was very friendly, my colleagues gave me a tour of the laboratories and helped me understand how to work with various advanced equipment, which I had previously only seen in the manufacturers’ brochures.
The first few months were spent adjusting to life and working in a new environment. Flexible working hours, comfortable working conditions, and access to state-of-the-art measuring equipment – it’s all breathtaking!
The official title of my position is “Cognitive techniques to exploit the diversity between power electronics and sensors to achieve EMC”. Although I have previously worked in the Power Electronics field and this subject related to the EMC, I found the new direction interesting. Especially interesting is the fact that in my previous research I have faced a similar problem, which is covered by mentioned subject. A device with the output of the measured motor speed to the screen started to work incorrectly adjacent to some frequency converters. This example explains well the practical side of the problem, which I have to conquer at the end of my research. I will give more details about my research in the next part of the blog. For now, I would like to continue with a description of the more down-to-earth side of the story.
Part 5. Diving headlong into the process.
From the first days, I was involved in many events. A meeting of Ph.D. researchers, training courses, and a lecture by prof. Leferink in Belgium, a Workshop in Vianen. We even had a visit of Jamie Heinemann to the university. You know, the host from MythBusters! He gave an interview to our student society. I was surprised that he had an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree. Many students asked questions about the academy and the popularisation of science. However, I didn’t dare to ask him a question myself.
Gradually I got used to the local lifestyle. I rented a bicycle, sometimes after work, I would just ride around campus or go out to the forest, which is across the road from my house.
I took a holiday over the New Year and went home. Although three months seems like a very short time, I really missed my family and the atmosphere of my city. There are no words to describe New Year and X-mas in Mariupol! The huge numbers of decorations, lights, several beautiful Christmas trees in the main squares of the districts, the new pier, and the recently renovated park five minutes’ walk from my house. It was fantastic two weeks.
After my holiday, I returned to Enschede and enthusiastically embarked on my research. Together with my supervisor dr. Vogt and Vasso Gratski determined the direction of my measurements and modeling, which were also included in the conference paper. In a month and a half, I completed courses on Presentation, Publishing, Scientific Search, and others skills. During them, I reviewed existing literature on the subject of interest, wrote an introduction to my first paper, and prepared a presentation and poster for it. I felt I had adapted and could now devote myself fully to my investigation. In addition, I and my parents started planning their trip to the Netherlands. The main problem was that the mother needed a second dose of COVID-19 vaccination (Do we even remember its existence yet?). This procedure was scheduled for the 24th of February. And so that day came…
Part 6. The Day the Earth Stood Still.
On the 24th of February, I woke up and, as usual, surfed on Twitter to read the news. I was stunned. Russia had launched a full-fledged invasion of my country. Information about missiles falling in Kyiv and Kharkiv, and footages of tanks and other military vehicles were everywhere. I couldn’t believe this was happening. After the shock subsided, I immediately called my parents. My mother said that everything was calm in Mariupol, only for some reason there were huge queues in the shops, and she was on her way to the vaccination center. Realizing that I wouldn’t persuade her not to go out at all, I asked her to be more careful. After that, I called Dasha and asked what she had heard. She said she was on her way to work as well as her parents. “Everything is fine in Mariupol”. But it didn’t last long, after week Russian troops were shelling the city. Rockets were falling all over the city; their numbers were enormous.
All the electricity, water, and gas supply systems were damaged as a result of the shelling. The next month just felt out of my life. I couldn’t think about anything but this war. Every day I went to the office because then I could force myself to do something useful other than sitting on the news for eternity! It also made me feel like I wasn’t alone, and I could always share my anxieties. I’m very grateful for the great support from my colleagues and supervisors.
All this time I tried to contact my relatives through various voluntary organizations, but all in vain. Finally, after almost 20 days of obscurity, I managed to talk to my wife. You can read more of her story via this link: https://www.tubantia.nl/enschede/oekraiense-vluchteling-dasha-is-blij-dat-ze-aan-het-werk-kan-op-de-ut-anders-ben-ik-24-uur-per-dag-met-de-oorlog-bezig~a3fa3d33/;
The next couple of weeks is here a long trip to Enschede and our move to a new apartment. I finally met Karma a jagterier that we got when she was two months old and without whom we can’t imagine our life. I love the new house! The view from the window is beautiful, and the opportunity to find oneself in the lush forest right after getting out. The only thing is Dasha and Karma still shudder from the sound of passing planes.
Part 7. Life continues.
So, to summarise. Dasha was invited to work in our department, her background and the university’s exceptional offer helped. My parents are still in Mariupol. Periodically I call them. It’s very difficult, due to the lack of electricity in the city they have to charge their phone from a generator and search around the district for points from where they can make a call. My city is destroyed by 90%. Therefore, the question of their evacuation is now a priority.
I’m getting back to working conditions, with a huge number of workshops, tutorials, and conferences ahead of me!
A week ago there was EMC Kennismarket on the TU/e campus. Where we presented the ETUT project to the scientific society! The upcoming week is Summer School as part of our project, and then preparing for the EMC – SIPI 2022 and EMC Europe 2022 conferences.
I am looking to the future with great hope that war will soon be over, I will be able to see my parent and all my relatives, I will go to Mariupol and eat Fries sitting on the coast of the Azov Sea!
Thank you to everyone who read this blog to the end, for your attention! I hope to see you soon!