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.
There have been some significant changes in the lives of Anton, Olha, and Zlata.
Coincidentally, on the day the November HumanistsMN newsletter was published with the article saying that Anton needed a job, he got one! Is that fate – or him making his own luck by following through on contact leads? He was hired by a construction company to install drywall, where he is at a job site for a few days before moving to the next one.
Many others at the company speak Russian or Ukrainian so he is readily able to communicate and understand the assigned tasks. Yay! There is that little downside of having to be at work at 6 a.m. each day. Such is the life of an employee. He has had a chance to visit new places like Edina and Minnetonka, quite far from the family’s original residence in Circle Pines.
In other news, the family has left Circle Pines and since mid-December has lived in an apartment in the southern part of Brooklyn Park. Finding this unit has been quite a journey and an education for all of us. With Anton earning $19 an hour, we aimed for a maximum rent of $1,000 for a one-bedroom unit. However, most management companies/landlords will not rent one-bedrooms to more than two people, even when one is a small child.
There’s also that little thing called adequate credit rating, which most places require. Anton and Olha have no credit rating and it takes about six months to build one, so the options are to have a cosigner or find the rare place that doesn’t use credit rating as a determining factor. One such developer/management company is Aeon, the company that owns their apartment complex.
We focused at first on the two center cities or first-ring suburbs so public transit would be available for Olha and Zlata given that Anton now has the car during the day. But the couple finally decided to look farther out. First, their dollars would go further toward a place in better condition. Second, it was easier to find a unit with free, off-street parking. Many closer-in apartments had little parking or charged up to $150 for a space.
With Anton employed, the family is trying to be financially independent and has purchased many of their new housewares on their own at their favorite lower-cost stores. The committee has funded a bed from IKEA. LeeAnn Bera and Eoghan Henderson felt that their living room needed some decluttering, so they provided a sofa and coffee table. And Ann L. contributed a kitchen table and chair set, so the family no longer has to eat over their coffee table. Given that our finances were in good shape and that the laptop the family brought from Ukraine is no longer functional, we bought a new one for them as a New Year’s gift (a traditional gift-giving occasion in Ukraine).
Because of lack of transport and moving, the family hasn’t pursued language classes in person (Olha has continued to practice with online training). They have made some new acquaintances and had guests over on a couple of occasions. Good for them!
One issue that is still a challenge is finding healthcare providers and getting appointments. When you are on Medical Assistance, providers often have very few appointments available per month, so you’d better call on the first of the month. And for some, you’d better have a credit card on file in case the insurance doesn’t cover the services. But now that Anton has a card in his name (though with a very low limit), that is less of a problem.
The status on finances: so far, we have spent about $23,400 of the money raised for this effort, with about $8,700 remaining. We decided to hold this money for approximately nine months. This is partly to ensure the family has what they need to be independent, but mostly to see what else might be needed at that point. Olha has expressed interest in taking courses for a certification (such as in cosmetology). But due to Zlata’s close attachment to her, this will probably not occur until autumn 2024, when Zlata will start kindergarten. At that point, money for an additional car may be needed to help them further establish their life – or to pay tuition costs.
If it turns out it is not needed, HumanistsMN will find another outlet for the money that honors donors’ desire to help Ukrainian immigrants or refugees.
This is the last update that we will provide until that decision is made. Anton, Olha, and Zlata, the HumanistsMN Ukrainian Refugee Sponsorship team, and HumanistsMN’s Board thank all who have contributed financially or with tangible items to enable this family to transition to their new home!
–HumanistsMN Ukrainian Refugee Sponsorship Team
Note: The Sponsorship Team that has hosted, escorted, transported, supported, befriended, married, and translated and researched for our Ukrainian friends includes: LeeAnn B., Esther A., Ashley A., Bob A., Christine R., David G., Estelle B., Holly M., Joyce E., Moira W., Nancy R., and Uriah B. We are pleased to have come together as a true team, to aid fellow humans in their efforts to find a safe new home where they can thrive.