Today, August 24, is Ukrainian Independence Day! This national holiday honors the indomitable spirit of the Ukrainian people and remembers all who’ve given their lives for their country — including those still fighting now. On this day in 1991, Ukraine gained its independence and joined the world stage as a sovereign nation. This year’s Independence Day holds particular significance as the country continues its struggle against the ongoing Russian invasion. Here is the true story of one family who just arrived in America on Sunday, and how they have been spending the past 546 days of the war.
“This is the story of how we decided to completely change our lives because of the war in Ukraine. Before we begin, we want to wish everyone who reads this text God's blessings and the feeling of His all-encompassing love.
Our family now consists of 4 people: I, Vladislav, am the father of the family, my beloved wife is Victoria, our wonderful 4-year-old daughter Polina, and our sweet newborn Isabela, who surprisingly came into this world a month ago, in Turkey. We are a multinational family and at the beginning of the war we lived in the city of St. Petersburg (this beautiful city was once a “window to Europe”). Life in Russia was becoming more difficult, and preaching the Gospel every day was also not an easy task, as the country was slipping into dictatorship and imperialism. But everything became very clear when the invasion began.
My wife is from Ukraine, and I am from Russia, and we would never have thought that there could be a war between our countries. It was a shock for both of us, we could not accept this war. We could not remain silent either, especially my Ukrainian wife Victoria, whose people suffered greatly, losing hundreds of innocent lives daily! In a short time, we decided that we must leave Russia behind and go to another country. The last straw was that Ukrainians living in Russia began to be persecuted, denunciations were written against them, and they were being reported to the FSB (the newer version of the KGB) for them to be investigated. When our pastor called me to say that the FSB came to him and he was interviewed for information about Victoria, we realized that there was no more time to hope and wait for something to change.
However, we just couldn’t leave Russia as a happy family going on a trip, as the authorities would easily see and understand that we would not be coming back, and therefore we would have been stopped. Victoria, as a Ukrainian, would have been detained (possibly arrested) and I would have been drafted into the army to fight in Ukraine. So, we had to split up. Our daughter, Polina and I fled by train to Belarus (the only country in Europe who will accept Russians across their border), and my wife Victoria had to somehow quickly cross the Russian border and stamp her passport at customs, never to return. For Ukrainians stuck in Russia, there is only one fast way to get out - the airport!
However, they didn’t even let her fly out like a regular traveler. At the airport, they took Victoria to a separate room where the FSB interrogated her for an hour. They took away her phone, copied all the data and bank cards, checked bank accounts, email, almost all social networks, asked questions about what kind of relatives she has in Ukraine, who is fighting where and how Victoria relates to the war. It was a real interrogation, without the right to choose and no respect for human freedoms. I prayed for Victoria and asked God to let her go, but I did not know until the last moment what was happening there, at the airport. My heart was happy when I got a call from my beloved and heard her voice, she was already on the plane, thank God!
In Belarus, we understood that we could not stay there for a long time, and from there we went further, to Istanbul. This was not our desire or goal; we simply chose an available flight with seats on the plane and in five hours we were in Turkey. We thank God that He gave us such an opportunity, at least for some time to feel freedom and not to think that at any moment of the day or night, the police can come to our apartment and simply pick up our child, take Victoria to the FSB office, and send me to a bloody and senseless war in Ukraine.
Turkey was not our final goal and we understood that we needed to move on, even though we received temporary residence in this country, and here we were not threatened with prison or death. But a month later, we received the coolest gift from God, Victoria was pregnant! Our joy knew no bounds, but at the same time, we understood that we did not want to give birth in Turkey. It is very difficult to find a good job, especially for immigrants, and this is a Muslim country, and we are Christians. We began to look for options on how to move to the USA, since this Christian country has freedom of speech and rights for a person! We want to give a better future for our children and benefit from a creative society.
As time went on, the funds we had accumulated in Russia began to run out, but the Lord blessed our family with the opportunity to move to the USA, thanks to our long-time friends from Georgia, Cyndee & Darrell. They supported us in many ways, including finding us an American sponsor from their church. Leslie and Gail helped us through the U4U program in the USA for Ukrainians and their families and became our sponsors, for which we are very grateful to them and simply cannot describe in words how much both of these couples helped us in this process.
We had a long wait for a response, about whether our applications were approved. And even before the answer came, baby Isabela decided to come into our world and was born on June 29, 2023. The following week, our American sponsors were approved, but now we had to get approval on our side, plus we had to make a new application for baby Isabela, and that meant we needed to get birth certificates and other identification documents for her in order to apply.
We were both happy and confused at the same time, because now we already have two daughters, but there is no data on Isabela in the U4U system, since she was born after submitting our application to the US Migration Service. Our funds were running out, because childbirth in Turkey turned out to be more expensive than we expected; we are just guests here, as tourists, not citizens of this country.
But the Lord heard our prayers and Cyndee & Darrell wanted to provide us with financial assistance. It was very unexpected for us, but at the same time very necessary for our family! We were so happy and eternally grateful to them for taking this step! I understand now, that Cyndee made an appeal to her Facebook friends, and some of you may have also contributed to this fund, so I thank you too for this sacrifice to help us.
After another month of gathering documents, and waiting for Travel Authorizations, our dreams finally came true. Hope Now agreed to help us with our plane tickets and organized everything. We are finally in Atlanta, and already I am applying for jobs, and we are ready to start our new life in America.
Every day we thank Jesus Christ for everything that He has created in our life, for the wonderful people and friends who have been helping us all this time, who have become a real example of Christian love and care for us! We are happy to be able to share with you a life-changing story that has only just begun. The Lord teaches us by the example of these wonderful people who have become friends for us, and in difficult times are close by and provide help!
Lord, may You abide in every heart, and bless everyone who bears Your light and is an example of Your love and care! In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen! Sincerely, Vladislav”
In addition to more than 300 Ukrainians that Hope Now USA evacuated from Ukraine, at the outset of the invasion, we have also assisted 31 Ukrainians who found themselves “stuck” in various countries across Europe, by bringing them legally to the USA. These 14 women, 12 children and 5 men are now living in America, where we have helped them find housing, jobs, schooling, and a new life. They have left everything behind including relatives, church families, businesses, homes, pets, friends, and careers. We have requests from 4 other Ukrainians, who are well known to Hope Now. Please pray that donors like you will come forward so that we can bring this next stranded family to the USA, to start a new life among supportive friends.
Happy Independence Day, Ukraine!
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