Ukrainian Family Update: a Wedding, a Fully Owned Car, and English Classes

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.

The pictures with this article will give away the first piece of news about Anton, Olha, and Zlata: Olha and Anton were finally able to marry. They have long wanted to do so – but war delayed their plans. On one of the last warm days of October, one of our committee members, Ashley Allen, performed the wedding outdoors at the home of another committee member, Esther Alder. It was a lovely ceremony (with documents translated into Ukrainian).

There were a couple of glitches: the recording for friends and family in Ukraine was unfortunately not successful (though a Zoom worked) – and one of the wedding rings was misplaced (but luckily quickly found). In addition to the family and officiant, eight others were present for this special event. A wonderful day!

And more good news!  At long last Anton and Olha have taken possession of a 2016 Nissan Rouge, following all the paperwork involved in getting the lien released, obtaining insurance, and transferring the title.

The family now has much more independence. Anton and Olha can go to English class three to four days a week and drop Zlata off at preschool on their own.  Our team provided  a number of emergency supplies: jumper cables, gas container, shovel, and gravel. Good thing, since Anton said the last time it snowed an inch or so in Odessa was in 2015, so they probably wouldn’t have realized they needed some of these items.

Their new in-person English class is a great improvement over the prior online course and is helping them learn more.  

The next huge step is Anton finding a job to support himself and his family. Refugees face many hurdles in finding that first position in America. One of the most significant is a lack of English proficiency, meaning the first job is often a low-paid entry-level one without employee benefits.

Anton is skilled in the building trades (commercial painting and wallpapering), but will consider a full-time opportunity in the construction or manufacturing industries (or, frankly, any position where he could learn and advance in the company). While independent contractor positions in the construction world are available, those require a level of recordkeeping and taking on of risk that would be challenging for a new arrival in the country.

If you are aware of a company that could use Anton’s skills in a full-time position with employee benefits and could navigate his limited (though improving) English proficiency, please contact Christine Retkwa at

Olha isn’t certain what type of work she would like, but expects to work on weekends to be available for Zlata during the week. The family also isn’t sure where they will choose to live, but likely somewhere in the central part of the metro to have access to public transportation.

An update on finances: This effort has raised $32,150 and expenses have been about $19,719 so far. The next large set of costs will be getting the family set up in their own home after Anton finds a job.

We are glad the family is beginning to get more established and ready for their life in Minnesota. 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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