Before moving to the United States in 2017, Olena worked as a lawyer in Ukraine for 10 years, gaining extensive experience working with people in her country. She has a strong connection with her family in Ukraine, including her father in the Kharkiv region and her husband’s family in Kherson and currently stay in the western part of Ukraine. With the invasion of Ukraine, Olena considers herself fortunate that her loved ones are still alive, but she worries every day for their safety.
Reflecting on the past year, Olena describes it as one filled with fear, uncertainty and sleepless nights. She is heartbroken by the destruction of her beautiful hometown of Kharkiv, where rockets continue to fly and land heavily. Although her father was given the opportunity to evacuate, he refused to leave his pets behind.
As a former lawyer in Ukraine, she feels a sense of duty to help her fellow Ukrainians. She sees this as her field of fight and is determined to use her legal expertise to help those who have been affected by the war. Since October 2022, Olena has been working with Church World Service’s Durham Office and has already helped over a hundred Ukrainian clients, mostly families and individuals who have fled the war in the past year and arrived in the U.S.
Working with these Ukrainians has been emotionally challenging for Olena. Olena says, “Each story touches my heart, particularly those from Mariupol and Severodonetsk, two cities that were nearly destroyed.” Nevertheless, Olena remains committed to her work and believes that she can make a difference in the lives of those she serves.
As we mark a year since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Olena is reminded of the sacrifices made by Ukrainian soldiers who are fighting in the cold weather to defend their country. She feels humbled and inspired by their bravery and is motivated to continue doing whatever she can to support Ukrainians in need.
Olena is grateful for the support that the world has given to Ukraine, especially from many Americans who have been supportive of Ukrainians fleeing the war. She has been actively involved in these efforts as a case manager with Church World Service.
As the new year begins, Olena, like millions of others, wishes for Ukraine to win the war in 2023 and for peace to finally come to her beloved country.
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