WARREN, Mich. (WXYZ) — Back to school has a special meaning for Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Schools in Warren.
School leaders say dozens of refugees from the war-torn country enrolled this summer. 7 Action News was told the student population was 180 students at the end of last year and is expected to grow to upwards of 300 students this school year.
The school held its annual Ringing of the First Bells before the first day of class. Ukrainian students, parents and staff joined in the tradition. They read poems and prayed for a successful school year.
“Everyone at this school is very kind. That’s the main thing. They help each other," Iryna Savliuk, a Ukrainian refugee, told 7 Action News.
Savliuk, who works as a kindergarten assistant, said she and her family fled Ukraine two months ago.
“I have a son. He’s in preschool," she said. "He doesn’t know English. Everything is difficult for him."
As difficult as the language barrier may be for her son Matthew, she said that doesn’t compare to the amount of peace they’ve found in the U.S. She said the sirens in Ukraine from Russia's invasion tormented Matthew. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case.
Father Daniel Schcoski, superior of Immaculate Conception, said, “I spoke with one mother and she said, ‘Father, what my child saw in his young age, you will not see. Not even in (a) movie.”
He said this is what standing with Ukraine looks like. It's a community providing support including social, emotional, financial as well as spiritual.
"We can give them this sense of family,” Schcoski said. “We know them all by name, and students who are here, who are born here who speak Ukrainian are asked to help them. And it’s incredible. They are an example for us.”
Savliuk thanked the community for its prayers and donations that have been made to help families in her situation, allowing her son to get an education and live a better life.
“Please, I ask you. Stand with us. Stand Ukraine," she sobbed.