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Utah woman, community preparing to welcome small group of Ukrainian refugees

Posted at 4:44 PM, Jan 17, 2023

HOLLADAY, Utah — Escaping dangerous conditions in their homeland, a refugee family from Ukraine is coming to Utah this weekend thanks in part to one local group of people trying to help.

"They’re coming Saturday. I know, yeah. It’s really exciting," Catherine Arvaseth told FOX 13 News from her home in Holladay.

She says after months of planning, in just a few days they'll finally meet the Ukrainian refugees: Hanna, her 8-year-old daughter Marharyta, and Hanna's friend and coworker Maryanna.

"All of us felt like, you know, 'What can we do?'" Catherine said. "As you watch that, you really feel quite helpless. We’re just trying to combat the refugee crisis one family at a time, and that’s about what we can do, right? If we can just take one little family at a time and give them a safe home and new start and a new life."

Catherine and her friend started a local chapter of the national not-for-profit group Welcome NST.

"They are helping to resettle refugees through the Sponsor Circles pathway through the government, but instead of just coming through a government pathway and with $2,000 and dropped at an apartment and 'Here, hope you do well,' what we’re doing is bringing a community together to welcome a family, creating a relationship with them ahead of time so we have all of the support staff already in place. We have an apartment that we’re getting ready for them, and they tend to do a lot better when they come through this like a neighborhood support team — NST."

The organization paired Hannah, a pharmacist and single mom, her daughter and her coworker Maryanna with the group from Holladay who hope to help get them on their feet and self-sufficient here within a year.

It was nearly a year ago in February when the war in Ukraine began. Hanna and her daughter lived in Kyiv.

"Hanna said that they woke up at 4:45 in the morning to explosions and pillars of fire and smoke outside of her window. She says she’ll never forget the sounds and the smell," Catherine said.

They fled to a town closer to the Polish border, but they are still living in a warzone experiencing air raids, missile strikes and multiple extended power outages.

In a video shared by Catherine's group called "Team Sonyaschnyk," Hanna can be heard speaking in Ukrainian describing the conditions they're currently living in Lviv. It translates to read in part: "The lights are turned out for about 8 hours a day. Along with the lights, communication, Internet and heat are turned off, too. So we have candles and we also bought a flashlight."

"So it feels kind of like a rescue mission, and I think it will be really sweet to meet them in person. We’re excited," Catherine said.

They are still looking for help to reach their financial goal to help these women who are coming to Utah this week. Donations can be made here.

You can also find out how to start your own chapter in your community here.