HMN Team Brings Ukrainian Refugee Family to Minnesota

By Christine Retkwa

The Ukrainian Refugee Assistance Project, organized by HumanistsMN members, is sponsoring a Ukrainian family that arrived in Minnesota in August. Here is an update through August 23.

Thank you to all HumanistsMN members and allies for your interest and engagement so far in helping our new Ukrainian friends! 

August 13 to 17 were very challenging days for Anton, Olga, and young Zlata!  They traveled to the country of Moldova, followed by an eight-hour bus ride to Bucharest, Romania, on August 14, before their early morning first-of-four-flights on August 15.

Imagine if you were in a Japanese airport where neither humans nor signs communicated in English. And you were not an experienced flyer. That is how it was for this family.  Ultimately, we learned that the best way to help them navigate the airports and make their connections was through the wonder of technology: committee members Esther Alder and Ashley Allen were able to virtually escort them through the airport using Facebook Messenger, even during the wee hours of our night. The family had two unanticipated overnight stays due to missed flights — and finally, arrival at MSP airport the afternoon of August 17!

They now have begun settling in at the home of LeeAnn Bera and Eoghan Henderson, where they expect to stay for up to three months. The first fun event was a picnic a couple days after arrival in a nearby park (Olga and Zlata pictured above; Anton not shown). 

And they have now had their first (very lengthy) appointment with the resettlement organization International Institute of Minnesota and have submitted applications for Social Security, Medicaid, and other programs. They have also signed up for English language courses and are working on enrolling Zlata in preschool.

Our committee and the family deeply appreciate the financial support of so many HumanistsMN members and friends. Every contribution is important and will go a long way toward helping this family have a great start at being independent.  We also appreciate the member who donated many flight miles to cover nearly all of two of the three plane tickets (the full cost was about $1,400 per seat). Through your generosity, we are happy to report having reached our original fundraising goal of $15,000!  Of that amount, about $3,000 has been spent for the long journey plus immediate necessities like a car seat, groceries, and three months of cell phone minutes.

The family’s near future will include getting more oriented, studying English, and working toward learning Minnesota driving rules (and getting a Minnesota driver’s license), then finding a job for Anton. We are planning to do occasional outings with them — and will aim for an HMN meetup later in September (likely an outdoor activity).

Fundraising has gone well, enabling us to meet many of the family’s future needs (such as the large deposit for rent as they leave their host’s home). Donations are still welcome at HumanistsMN website, or our GoFundMe page. To enable Anton to work as a commercial painter, which will not likely involve a fixed location, a reliable low-cost car will be critical. Also, the family will need moderately priced home furnishings in about two months when they prepare to move into their own home. 

If you are in a position to donate a well-cared-for used car (or offer one at a fair selling price), or if you have furnishings or housewares to contribute, please contact LeeAnn Bera (project leader) or Christine Retkwa (project treasurer) at socialaction@humanistsmn.org.

Know that all of your contributions and efforts are helping this family settle into a good life in beautiful Minnesota. Thank you!

HumanistsMN Ukrainian Refugee Sponsorship Team

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1 comments

    • Bobbi on August 30, 2023 at 6:09 pm
    • Reply

    It warms my heart to see Zlata playing safely outdoors without worry. Welcome to Minnesota, Anton, Olga and Zlata!

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