In 1996, I came to the U.S. from my hometown of Kiev, Ukraine to be a translator at the Atlanta Olympic Games. I remember landing in the U.S. and being excited to explore Atlanta and connect with people from around the world. After the Olympics concluded, I wound up staying in Atlanta where I met my husband and have raised two children. When the war in Ukraine began earlier this year, it was especially difficult for me because I still have family living in Ukraine. Hearing firsthand accounts from family members about the cities and towns where I grew up being bombed and overtaken by the Russian military was heartbreaking.
But what was more heartbreaking was thinking about the individuals and families who were forced to flee and seek safety outside of Ukraine. When I heard about the work New American Pathways was doing for Ukrainians, I knew I wanted to be involved. I was hired as a Ukrainian Services Outreach Specialist & Interpreter and have been working closely with the team as we provide application assistance for public benefits like food stamps and Medicaid to Ukrainians in Georgia.
Each individual or family who comes to New AP seeking help has a story, and I’m the only person on staff who speaks Ukrainian, so I am the one they tell. I have dried the tears of wives who had to leave their husbands behind, consoled fathers and mothers who are struggling to explain to their children that they are safe now, and comforted children who are worried about their grandparents back in Ukraine. The sheer amount of trauma they have been through is staggering.
News reports of Ukrainians fleeing the country do not do these asylum seekers justice. These are individuals who have had to leave family, friends, and their homes behind. Most have come to start a new life with just a suitcase in their hands.
For the first 25 years of my life, I was Ukrainian. Even after living in the U.S. for decades and creating a beautiful life here, I am still Ukrainian. My heart aches for the country I love and for the people I’ve met during my time at New American Pathways. But I’m determined to use my skills and knowledge to help those in need and make a positive impact for Ukrainians arriving in Georgia. I still remember getting off the plane in Atlanta all those years ago. And although my circumstances were incredibly different than Ukrainians who are arriving here now, I want to help them find a new home here and give them the chance to create their own beautiful life.
To help newly arrived Ukrainians in metro Atlanta, make your donation HERE.