This student was just one of over 1100 foreign exchange students who came to the United States that year to finish their education.
He was assigned to live with former Macon County High School teacher Talmadge Overton.
A few articles have been written in the Macon County Times during the past few years concerning Alex and Talmadge's efforts to change his VISA (a document that allows foreign individuals to stay in the United States) because of events in his homeland.
In October 1994, just two months after Alex arrived in Macon County, he received disturbing news from home.
Because of a political regime in his country, Alex learned that his father had been thrown in jail. Alex's mother went into hiding and fled the area because she was afraid that she to would be arrested and put in jail.
After learning this, Overton realized that if Irkly returned home, he would be in danger. This knowledge led him to begin working to help his houseguest stay in this country until it was safe for home to return home.
In a Macon County Times article, Overton, when discussing this, stated, "He basically has no place to go. If he goes home, he'll immediately be flashed into the army. I have a fear of him starving or becoming a beggar. This has been awful for him."
During the time that Alex was waiting for a good time to return home, he graduated high school at MCHS.
He received knowledge that the change in his VISA status was pending.
He then began taking classes at Nashville Tech because they accepted him with a pending VISA.
Later he transferred to Volunteer State Community College and then on to Tennessee Technological University where he completed a degree in electrical engineering.
One of the projects he has recently completed involved developing the front and rear wiper controls for the Hummer 2 that is currently on the market.
He got married and later received his green card.
This past December, everything came together. Things had finally settled down enough in the Ukraine and Alex had received his green card that allowed him to travel and return to the United States.
"In my country, we celebrate New Year's a lot," Alex explained. "So, this was a good time to go."
In the Ukraine, a typical New year's party starts at 10 p.m. on the night before, and according to Overton and Alex lasts until 6 a.m. the next morning. At this time, the party breaks up and the guests all go their separate ways. A few hours later, friends get together again to continue their New Year's celebration, before calling it a day and resting on January 2.
When asked what she felt about the trip, Alex's wife Cindy stated, "It was interesting to see a different way of life."
"It was a real experience, especially for me," Talmadge Overton, who traveled to the Ukraine with Alex and his wife, Cindy said. "I got to see many of the things that I had heard about for the last 8 years. We visited his high school and saw some of his old classmates."
"As a teacher," Overton continued, "seeing his education and comparing it with the system we have back here was interesting."
"The education system is very foreign language oriented," Talmadge said.
"First graders talked to him (Overton) in English," Alex said.
"When you walked around the school," Overton explained, "it was eye-opening how far behind our foreign language program is to there program. They introduce English in the first grade. We wait to late to get involved in foreign languages."
"Everybody walks everywhere"(in the town that he is from) Alex explained. "They start walking to school at an early age and everybody is responsible to get there."
"They dress in ties and jackets and in more formal outfits than we do at school," Talmadge said.
"During the summer" Alex explained, "the kids are expected to return to the school and work 2 - 3 weeks, depending on how good their grades were. The better the grades the less time they have to work. The students have to clean and paint the building."
"It was a rewarding experience to be in the schools," Overton continued. "They are very interested in America. All the people were kind and compassionate to me."
"This was the way to visit a foreign country," Overton continued, "to go into someone's home and let the people who live there show you around."
"The country is evolving private enterprise."
"It is in the beginning stages," Alex stated. "There is a wide gap between the ones with money and the ones with no money."
"There is a wide gap between classes. The very rich and very poor live very close together," Alex explained. "You would drive through the absolute slums, the worse areas where people live with no money and then right beside these houses would be a 5 story high building with security cameras, a 7 foot brick wall and satellite tv. This would be in the middle of the worse looking neighborhoods."
"Most people live in a multi-story apartment building. the buildings are 5 to 16 stories high," Alex explained. "There are usually between 1,000 and 3,000 apartments in each building. Apartments can be about half a mile long in Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine. It could look like a 9 story brick wall that goes on for streets. Each apartment has a separate entrance."
"Their apartment buildings," are much larger once you get inside them," Overton stated. "Inside they can be really nice. Alex's parents have more room in their apartment than some apartments her have. They had 3 sleeping areas, a bath, a kitchen, a utility room, and a balcony. It was really nice. "
"There is almost no middle class," Overton said. "All have to start at the low level. The middle class is what makes a government work."
"There they have a bazaar and it was interesting to see that work. At one place, I bet there were 25 different booths that sold hats. You expect to go into shops, but everything is at the bazaar, right there on the street."
"The people are all so kind," Overton stated.
'They have almost everything there that we have here, if the people can afford it."
"The country is beginning to develop the process of making loans and purchasing cars," Alex explained. A car about the size of a Ford Focus would cost you $3,500 there. But, that is a lot of money since the average salary is between $60 - $80 a month."
"The meals are very good," Overton said with a smile. "We had a lot of soups, especially a Russian - Ukrainian traditional soup called a brsch."
"One thing I found out that I thought was interesting was that the meals were at least three course, with the drink after they finish eating. They do not drink while they are eating."
"They have all different types of salads and many different types of dishes that are just really good," Overton continued. "They also have a lot of juices to drink. Alex's mother had canned some cherry juice that was excellent. Many of the restaurants served wine and some of the people drink Vodka with their meals."
Alex added, "There is also some fruit tea and carbonated water to drink."
"Alex's parents had done a lot of home canning to get ready for our trip there," Overton stated. "It was all delicious."
"My mother had canned watermelon, salads and tomatoes," Alex explained. "We can pretty much anything that can be eaten."
"We ate a lot from their closet," Overton explained.
"Everyone wants to have a greenhouse," Alex said. "This is a little country house with a little land about a 1/3 of an acre. A little house with a place to plant tomatoes and such. If they can't have a house, then they want a little patch of land where they can plant their garden."
"Country homes are very popular," Overton added. "Alex's parents' country house is a nice little house."
"It is a brick house on the outside," Alex explained, "with limestone on the inside that acts as insulation. It is a 2 story house but it is very self-contained."
"They do a lot of ice fishing there," Overton explained. "They just get out there on the ice and cut a whole and fish.'
"The fisherman place plastic on the ground under them and then they sit on it and wrap it around them and fish," Alex explained.
"We visited some of the churches there," Overton explained. "Many of these had been closed for 60 - 70 years. They were opened up and going in to see all the paintings and the murals on the wall were amazing."
"Many of the places we went, we saw Communist memorials," Overton continued. "The churches had been closed for all those years because under Communism there is no religion observed."
"We have many Communist memorials that still stand," Alex said. "Every town has a Lenin Street, a Lenin Square and a Communist Park. As a small children we are told that Lenin's statue and picture are in different palaces because he is watching over us."
"There are a lot of World War II things in the area as well," Overton said.
American culture has found its way deep into the Ukrainian country side.
Overton and Alex both told the story of traveling deep in country to a small restaurant that had a bar in it. They asked the bar if they had any Jack Daniels and without hesitation the barkeeper presented it. When they told the barkeeper they were from Tennessee, the locals had a number of questions about the area and about Lynchburg.
"The trip was really good and I very much enjoyed it," Overton stated.
With the degree of heightened security in the world, a question concerning the security they saw at different airports was natural. The international travelers reported that their items were searched going over. But, coming back their luggage was double and triple checked. In Amsterdam, the inspectors checked everything as they were coming off the plane.