Throughout his childhood, Roman Soiko was described by others as “intelligent and strong-willed.” But at the the age of eight, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes developmental disability.
The challenge of living with this diagnosis has made Soiko empathetic to the political and social obstacles in others’ lives, initiating his passion to explore opportunities to help others worldwide.
After saying goodbye to his father in Russia as a five-year-old, Soiko moved to the United States in 1994.
Soiko enrolled at St. Thomas University because of its reputation as having a good human rights program. He also found great interest in the specific classes and professors in the program at STU. He said New Brunswick is “quiet and more attractive,” than his New Jersey home.
“Canadian people are nicer and more approachable,” he said.
Soiko’s passion for human rights began as a fourteen-year-old with an introduction to the greatest influence in his life – Sabina Carlson, the president of his high-school chapter of Amnesty International at West Windsor Plainsboro High School.
Together, they worked diligently in organizing demonstrations in support of the human rights issues in Burma, Darfur, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Soiko has an extensive list of role models who continue to inspire his passions and ambitions for international human rights. When asked who he would like to meet, Soiko said he would like to ask Nelson Mandela, “How he managed to survive in prison for such a long time?” and “How he managed to turn South Africa to democracy in such a peaceful manner?”
At 22 years old, Soiko’s accomplishments are impressive. The third-year human rights and political science student at STU has won the New Jersey National Geography Contest in 2004, has political advocacy experience with Amnesty International and Coalition for Peace Action and has written five books advocating human rights, environmental, sociopolitical and economic issues.
His books include: Hengduan Mountains, 10 Billion, and a a three-book series entitled May 7.
Currently, Soiko has a new book underway – Swept by the Waves – a story about the impending threats of global climate change on the small islands of Kiribati and Tuvalu.
His book Hengduan Mountains is his favourite.
“It encompasses his passion about the current human rights issues in Burma and the regime that continues to destroy villages, kills innocent people, torture, make arbitrary arrests and continually violate the laws of the international community, as well as incorporating the implication on all perspectives from individual to international,” Soiko wrote of his book.
Despite his success, Soiko’s ultimate dream of finding resolution for global human rights issues remains unfinished.
“They (his ambitions) are the greatest challenges in my life because of the reality that I can only do so much, and it often makes me feel overwhelmed,” Soiko said.
Soiko’s also has a strong interest in South African politics, geography and culture, which has been a part of him since he can remember. He even mastered a proficiency of the Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu languages in preparation for the day he would someday travel to South Africa.
This was only the beginning of his ambitious attempt “to master all six official languages of the United Nations.” His ability to participate in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu conversations leaves him with only the absence of Chinese preventing him from perfection.
Often, Soiko puts his ambitions aside to satisfy his Tim Horton’s coffee and technology addictions. He admits he is guilty of “spending too much time on the computer – playing games, exploring current events on YouTube, catching up with friends on Facebook, and listening to U2 or Guns ‘n Roses November Rain.”
After the completion of his undergraduate degree at STU, Soiko plans to go to South Africa. He also hopes to see John Peters Humphrey’s memorial in Hampton”.
“But I was offered an internship at the NB Human Rights Commission here in Fredericton,” he said.
No matter where his passions and ambitions lead him, Soiko’s curiosity and involvement in helping support the fair treatment of people all around him will never cease to exist.
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