OREM, Utah — A Ukrainian who has lived in Utah for more than 15 years is packing his bags to help his people.
Vasil Osipenko has been instrumental in helping Ukrainians find housing here in the Beehive State after fleeing their homeland, but now he says it's time to go to them.
“I would like to help those individuals and families, split apart families, to find some new meaning in life," he said.
Providing help and hope is what Osipenko does for his students daily in Orem.
Osipenko started the "Ukrainian Tennis Academy" to tutor students in the sport he grew up playing.
“All of my skills, teaching skills, playing skills, and dignity I brought from Ukraine," he said.
Ukraine is Osipenko's homeland. He later served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia.
His wife, Liz, served her mission in Ukraine around the same time, but it wasn't until later that the two met and got married.
The Osipenkos' marriage, like the colors represented in the Ukrainian flag, has been blue skies and the harvest of a lot of hard work.
“I love Liz," said Vasil. "I’m just trying to be on the backstage and try not to ruin the peaceful environment.”
The two plan to take their work ethic across seas to Poland to help refugees fleeing Ukraine — people who Vasil has spent the past month speaking with over the phone.
“I just come to tell them how great they are, how much we value our relationship with them, and how much they are my heroes," he said.
The situation in Ukraine is still too dangerous for the Osipenkos to cross the border from Poland, so this trip is all about driving refugees where they need to go.
Vasil said he looks forward to interacting with and comforting refugees in their own language.
"My wife speaks Russian and Ukrainian, and she is a very caring person," he said. "By bringing her and allowing people to meet her, will offer a few hours or days of comfort.”
The couple has been busy helping Ukrainians arriving in Utah find housing, clothes, food and more.
“It was so amazing," said Liz. "People offered a couple of bedrooms in their house, and a basement."
Both said they want to return once the conflict ends to help rebuild Ukraine.
“I’ve heard the statement that we don’t fight because we don’t like our enemy — we fight because we love our people behind, families and children," said Vasil.
The Osipenkos head out to Poland on Monday, and they plan to return in a week and a half.