Stories of Change

Oleg. Courtesy photo.

From Dance Teacher to Caregiver: Oleg’s Journey to Help Ukrainian War Refugees

In December 2016, Oleg, a professional dancer, visited Greensboro, North Carolina, to teach dance at local schools. After five years of working in the U.S., Oleg built a new life here with kids and a wife. Then the devastating war broke out in Ukraine. Feeling the need to help his fellow citizens who were fleeing the conflict, Oleg left his teaching job. He joined Church World Service as a case manager in September 2022.

In his new role, Oleg was responsible for managing 22 different cases, including 37 individuals and families with small children, married couples and young adults. Despite the challenges they faced, the Ukrainians were positive and grateful for their new lives in the United States. Oleg recalls, “It was not long before they appreciated having access to electricity and running water.” The journey to the U.S. was difficult, taking courage and several weeks to complete. In the U.S., the refugees are now adapting to their new surroundings by learning about the tax system, improving their English, and focusing on building a new life.

Oleg reflects, “It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since the invasion of Ukraine.” He has family members–including his parents, two brothers and grandparents–and many friends still living in Ukraine and facing the dangers of war every day. “Every time I speak to my brother, he is on the move, trying to stay safe,” says Oleg.

For those in Ukraine, the war continues to impact their daily lives. However, for many people outside of the country, the conflict has fallen off the news cycle. But for those who are directly affected, like Oleg’s family, every sunset and sunrise bring uncertainty. “The difference between those in Ukraine and us is that we can turn off the TV, but they continue to suffer. They never know if they will wake up the next day safely. The fact that even apartments are targeted makes it even more frightening,” adds Oleg.


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