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Continued Support for Ukraine

Continued Support for Ukraine
From left to right: Alla Stetsenko, the mother-in-law/grandmother; Iryna Kulyk, the mother; daughter Myroslava Stetsenko, (age 8), daughter Kira Stetsenko (age 13), enjoying the Welcome Picnic on Aug. 20 celebrating their arrival and everyone who has helped to support them.Photo by Marlene Smith

By Mia Epstein

In the July 1 issue of the Kenwood Press, I informed you all about John Namkung, Gary Moe, and the Lone Pine Ukrainian family Aid’s efforts to relocate a family from Ukraine to Sonoma County and support them once they arrive. I am honored that I get to share the good news that the family has made it to Rohnert Park, California.

When they first were trying to escape Ukraine, it was on the fourth try that they met Namkung and made it safely to Poland. Each attempt that was stopped was extremely scary due to the uncertainty of their safety in the hands of Russian soldiers. After Namkung drove the family across the border from Ukraine to Kraków, Poland, they then made it to Germany the next day. Their original plan was to end up in Canada, however, when Namkung was back in the United States, he decided to sponsor them and offered them to join him in the United States. There was a familiarity and trust that had been built, and they agreed to let him sponsor them.

Since the last article was published, a lot has happened. After some time and trouble with the mother-in-law’s passport, a plan was created to get the family to the United States even though she only had a domestic passport and needed an international one. They decided to stop in Dublin, Ireland, because of the Customs and Border Protection Preclearance program that exists there, whereby travelers can be pre-approved to enter the United States before they board a plane. They were given strong indications that she would receive the pre-approval at the Dublin airport, even though she only had a domestic passport. The alternative was to fly directly out of Germany and take the risk of being denied entry into the United States upon landing in San Francisco.

A week before their flight from Germany to Dublin, they were informed that dogs were not allowed to fly in Dublin due to rabies. Namkung’s wife saved the day and flew out to Germany to take their dog, Fara, back to the United States with her separately from the family via a direct flight from Frankfurt.

When it came time for the flight to Dublin, the family missed the flight and had to spend four nights in Frankfurt. They eventually made it to Dublin, where the United States customs took a long time to conduct their business, and the family missed their flight again. Meanwhile, Namkung’s wife was flying to the United States with Fara. Then, after spending the night in Dublin, the make-up flight was canceled due to United Airlines’ mechanical troubles. Finally, their next flight was successful, the fourth try, and they flew to the United States! I would say that four is their lucky number.

They are now in a house in Rohnert Park, California, for two years as part of the Uniting for Ukraine program, and the daughters are enrolled in school. “The main challenge is our lack of English skills. Everyone speaks so fast. The children are also having a difficult time figuring out what the teachers are saying, but I think it will improve over time,” said, Iryna Kulyk. Kulyk and her mother-in-law, Alla Stetsenko, have started attending English classes to improve their skills. Twelve Ukrainian members of the community have volunteered to help translate for the family when needed, as well, making the transition smoother. Also, Kulyk is learning how to drive using a car graciously donated by someone in the community. “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of everyone we have met. We feel very much welcomed, and this has made our journey easier to handle.” On Aug. 20, a welcome picnic was held in Rohnert Park for everyone who has contributed in any way, and over 100 people attended the picnic. It was a successful event to show gratitude for all the support the family has received.

Coming up on Sept. 24, Hromada- Laub-Lone Pine Ukrainian Family Fund Concert will take place to raise funds to support the family and the people of Ukraine through the Hromada War Relief Efforts and to share Ukrainian music and dance with Sonoma County. The concert will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Lawrence Jones Middle School Theater (5154 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park) with a 30 minute intermission consisting of a silent and live auction to raise money for the family’s living expenses in the United States. Tickets can be bought in advance at hromada.us/ concerts (indicate in the comments ‘for Sept. 24 concert) or at the door. Tickets start at $40 and for an additional $20, an after-party with the performers is included. Contact Yarema Kuzhyshyn to donate silent auction items or to offer an additional venue for a future event at (971)-998-6571 or [email protected]

Currently, the best ways to help are to donate or attend the concert in order to reach the goal of $40,000. For how to donate, there are three ways listed here: Write a check payable to Type of Wood Charities and send to 567 Polk St., Twin Falls, Idaho, 83301. Write “Lone Pine Ukrainian Family Aid” in the memo line of the check. GoFundMe: https://gofund. me/13b185b0. Or, contribute online at typeofwood.org. Do not select the PayPal option; click “choose amount,” and select a onetime or monthly payment. Write “Lone Pine Ukrainian Family Aid” in the comment section. Type of Wood Charities is a registered nonprofit and is the recipient of funds for the Lone Pine Ukrainian Family Aid program. Thank you to everyone in the community for your support.

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