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Hope in the midst of war: The story of a Ukrainian refugee family in Michigan

Posted at 6:01 PM, Feb 24, 2023

WARREN, Mich. (WXYZ) — Over 2,000 Ukrainian refugees have resettled in Michigan since this war began, many of them now living in the city of Warren.

Some of them want to remain here. Some of them want to return home. But all of them want this war to end.

“About three days, I could not sleep. I could not eat,” said Olga Bronetska, when discussing when the invasion in Ukraine happened on February 24, 2022.

For mom Olga Bronetska, February 24th is a date synonymous with agony.

“I could not do anything,” said Olga.

On that day a year ago, she’d sit helplessly in Madison Heights as three of her children in Ukraine were sent into a tailspin. Her daughter, Natalia, was one of them.

WXYZ’s Ameera David asked, “What was going through your mind?”

Olga agreed to translate for her kids and is having a hard time doing it without tears.

“People was in panic - they come outside and talk to each other, what to do, what to do, it’s war!” said Natalia interpreted by Olga.

Natalia, her brother Gregory, and their respective families would find themselves stuck, under a constant threat of attack. Mom, Olga, begged them to leave for other European countries.

“They said Mom don’t worry, don’t worry we’re fine - not yet” Olga explained.

Something told them to stay, and the risky decision paid off.

A few months later, the US launched ‘Uniting for Ukraine,’ the program that would ultimately allow them to live with their mom in America.

“You are reunited with three of your children from Ukraine. How does that feel?” asked David.

“Oh my God, there is no words to describe. I’m so happy,” said Olga.

But sadly, each smile- each sigh of relief for this family, is weighed down by the heaviness of war with so many other loved ones left behind including Natalia's boyfriend- and father of her soon-to-be-born baby.

“He has travel authorization, but he cannot leave Ukraine,” said Natalia interpreted by Olga.

“Because he’s a man?” asked David.

“Because he’s a man,” said Olga for Natalia.

Under martial law, Ukraine requires able men to stay and fight.

On top of the worry for loved ones at home, there’s worry over resettling in a new country with a new language but above all, there’s gratitude.

“What do you appreciate most about living in the United States?” asked David.

“To feel safe,” said Gregory interpreted by Olga.

Feeling safe means Gregory can get to and from work without the threat of a missile strike. For Natalia, it means bringing a baby into a home with working electricity and hot water.

"Did you ever imagine this war would have lasted so long?” asked David.

“Never,” said Gregory.

“Do you maintain hope?” asked David.

“Every war ends, so I believe it will end soon, and I believe we will have a much better life than now,” said Gregory interpreted by Olga.

"In Ukraine, we have saying: Hope dies last. There’s always hope. There’s always hope. There is no choice but to hope."

Despite all of the darkness, the ability remains to see light.

In addition to helping her own family adjust, Olga is helping nearly 100 other families. When the war hit, she began working as a case manager at a non-profit, Samaritas. She says more help is needed to assist Ukrainians with job placement, driver's education, and English language classes.

Many agencies need assistance and appreciate help.
Samaritas
Bethany Christian Services
Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw