Safety.  A better life.  Kindness.  Security.  These are things that I take for granted every day.  One of the things I love best about our community is that we help.  We help our neighbors when they need a hand.  We help shuttle each other’s kids around.  If someone gets sick – a medical professional steps in and offers assistance.  It’s something that is a core part of who I am – I have this burning desire to help and it’s so frustrating sometimes because I can’t.  I see people suffering on the news.  Tragedy, suffering, death – and here I sit in my warm, safe home with my bowl of ice cream and my kids playing nearby.  Why did I get so lucky?  Merely a matter of chance because I was born into a family who lives in the US.  I stand on the shoulders of generations of ancestors who worked and sacrificed for their children and children’s children.

This is why taking in refugees is so important to me.  They are drowning and we have a boat.  It’s the right thing to do.

I am no expert in Russian history.  So – please excuse flaws in my explanation.  In March of 2014 Russia reclaimed the nation of Crimea as it’s own.    That’s kind of like Mexico coming in and taking Texas back by force.  And then saying well – the Texans wanted to be part of Mexico….so we are just giving them what they wanted.  Since this happened – there has been wide speculation that Ukraine is next on the list to be reclaimed.  Russia wants Ukraine for, amongst other things, it’s strategic advantage.  It’s the small country that gets Russia one step closer to Eastern Europe.  Once Crimea was taken – there was a great deal of fear and fighting in East Ukraine.  Tanks, bombs and shooting in the streets and near the border.  People from East Ukraine fled and moved West and soon – the west began to panic.  Crime has gotten worse.  There are no jobs.  War was beginning.  They saw Ukrainian soldiers in the streets preparing to defend their border with Russia.  People were killed.  And this huge power of a country was bearing down on a small, but feisty nation.  The US sent in troops to help ensure that their border was protected and today – it seems to be ok.  For now.

About 3 years ago Vitalii and Lidiia started to get really worried about their future in Ukraine.  They have 3 children and things were not looking good.  Stories of violence and coming war were heard abroad.  It was then that they decided to apply for refugee status and try to bring their family to live in the United States.  They applied and were vetted for 2.5 years and finally in December 2016 they arrived here – with very little, but the clothes on their backs and what they could carry on the plane.  Lidiia’s sister is here – so they were very lucky.  As soon as they landed – they dove in head first, learning English, trying to find work, getting their kids into school.  They are so hard working.  When I arrived at their house, I brought my son along and they welcomed us with amazing Ukrainian food – peroghis, borscht, holupki, a beautiful table of generosity.  Their 3 children are awesome and despite a big language barrier (and thanks to google translate) their kids invited my son to play outside and they ran and jumped and played soccer and did what kids do.  In safety.  They are so impressed with how friendly people are here.  They are so grateful to be here and are starting to breathe a little easier knowing that a good future is possible for their children.  That they can find work and make their way in the world.  Lidiia has a dream of becoming a nurse.  They are both working relentlessly to improve their English.  Studying every day while the kids are at school.  The American Civic Association helped Vitalii find work and he is able to provide for his family.  So greater Broome County – meet your new neighbors.  They are amazing and are so happy to be here.  Welcome home.