Ukrainians Living In Bismarck Speak Out: ‘Being in the U.S. Doesn’t Mean To Be Safe’
Every day it's a new headline. The war Russia has brought upon Ukraine has us all a little shaken. You might not know it, but we have several Ukrainians living here in North Dakota.
They've reached out to me in hopes to shed light on their hopes, fears, and the reality of the situation. Not only that, but they ask our community for help. A local fundraiser for Ukraine is currently taking place, and every little bit helps.
Oleksandr shares his story.
"My story is not unique, it is very similar to all Ukrainians, my close friends, who live in North Dakota," said Volodchenko.
He tells me he was born and raised in eastern part of Ukraine -- the Luhansk region. The people in that area are known for speaking mostly Russian, but he says that doesn't mean they are not a patriot of Ukraine.
He says his region has been unlucky...its one of the closest to the Russian border.
He said he had to leave his hometown several years ago due to the threatening Russian influence. He said Russia's aggression toward Ukraine has been going on for a long time, and only now have people really seen and understood the issue.
"This time Ukraine was prepared to fight, to fight severely for its democratic future, for national identity, for culture, for sovereignty, for values," said Volodchenko.
Volodchenko says he moved to the United States in 2016, leaving his family behind in Ukraine. He's been supporting them for the past 6 years.
"Being far away, in the US, for me, doesn’t mean to be safe, doesn't meant to sleep well, even more every day I think about my parents that live under occupation right now, I thank God they relatively safe, at least for now," said Volochenko.
Volodchenko isn't the only one who's speaking out. A man named Victor Goncharov shared his concerns. If his name sounds familiar, that's probably because he's a business-owner here in Bismarck. He co-owns "Mama Bear Café."
Here's what Victor had to say:
Goncharov says he was raised in Ukraine, but has been living in North Dakota for 8 years now. He moved to Bismarck in 2014, when the Russian invasion started.
"It was hurtful and painful to leave but over seven years my country was getting stronger and greater," said Goncharov.
"My mother still resides in the Uman Chercassy regions. All my classmates, and childhood friends are still there... Some of my very close friends are on the front line," said Goncharov.
"Even if the war is not by my house, it is still my home that I want to protect" said Goncharov.
"I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be there right now holding him in underground facilities, and hoping that all of this is just a nightmare," said Goncharov.
"My hope is that the people of North Dakota will donate to help bring some relief to the families of Ukraine," said Goncharov.
The fundraiser is hosted by "Mama Bear Café;" the drop-off point is located in the old Herbergers, inside the Kirkwood Mall. Donations will be used to help support families and refugees in Ukraine. They hope to collect a variety of goods and raise money to send to Ukrainian organizations. This money will help provide food, shelter, and medical supplies to those in need.
Needed Items Include:
10 Things All North Dakotans Can Relate To.