Ukrainian Family Update: a Car, Preschool, and Job Hunts

By Christine Retkwa

The Ukrainian Refugee Assistance Project, organized by HMN members, is sponsoring a Ukrainian family that arrived in Minnesota in August. Here is the latest update.

First, some great news! Thanks to generous donors, Anton, Olha, and Zlata now have enough money to buy a car. They are trying to be patient while the Nissan SUV they are interested in buying gets its lien cleared by the seller, whose bank is not local. 

It is not easy or inexpensive to get car insurance when you don’t have an American driver’s license, but by shopping around, we got a reasonable quote. Anton has passed his written driver’s test, so hopefully he can take the road test soon and get his license.

A special thanks to Wealth Management Group of Mankato, where HMN member Holly McKissick’s mother works and prompted coworkers to contribute enough to cover the cost of the car. This was just one of many contributions of money and items made to support our Ukrainian friends – from donors who are showing kindness for people they don’t even know.

The family is making progress in many ways. Zlata started preschool this month – and, via the universal language of play, began to make friends with her schoolmates. She plays imaginatively with her toys and says what is on her mind, but like many children is reserved around people she doesn’t know well.

Olha and Anton have been trying to learn English, but the available online program was not a good fit, so they are about to start a more intensive in-person program. They’re now having conversations with contacts who will either provide a path to work or are employers themselves, such as a restoration company, which might be a good fit for either of the couple. Olha is interested in cleaning and Anton has construction skills. Some of these companies have crews who speak Ukrainian or Russian, which would ease communication. 

While waiting for the new car, our committee has been providing rides to medical appointments, employment interviews, and information sessions. Anton and Olha occasionally borrow host Eoghan Henderson’s car and are learning where to shop for clothes and personal items as they prepare for fall weather.

Given the lack of jobs, the family’s move to their own apartment is still probably two months away. And they will likely be ready for that. It must be hard to go from being independent adults to having to depend on others for truly everything. Learning English and getting transportation will open doors to greater independence before long!

Finally, our picnic at Hidden Falls Regional Park on October 1 in St. Paul was a good opportunity for more humanists to meet the family. 

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

HumanistsMN Ukrainian Refugee Sponsorship Team


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