Ukrainian refugee family finds a new home here in Mid-Michigan

A family was forced to leave everything behind once they heard the news Russia invaded Ukraine and flee to Mid-Michigan.
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 6:35 PM EDT
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CARO, Mich. (WNEM) - As the Russia-Ukrainian war continues, families are still trying to find a way out.

“We want to stay here, and to start a new business, a new life here. I think it would be best” said Christina and Sergei Pokanevich.

A new life filled with hope and opportunity while still not forgetting their old life. 3 weeks ago, Sergei, Christina and their 10-year-old son Leon packed their bags and left Ukraine.

“We had to leave everything in our hometown; business, real estate, our relatives, in general everything,” Christina said. “We came here with only 3 suitcases.”

Their move was made possible through a program called Uniting for Ukraine, where an American family opens their home to refugees.

For the Pokanevih’s, that family happened to be in Caro -a couple with their own connection to Ukraine.

“My dad was so proud of being Ukranian,” said Kathy Gwizdala.

Kathy says helping this family is her way to honor her parents, and though she didn’t grow up speaking the language, the barrier isn’t enough to block that.

“For us it’s like expanding our family,” said Gwizdala. “It’s a wonderful experience”

As for the Pokanevih’s.

“We are really grateful for all their help,” Christina said. “They make us feel at home here.”

Even though they are safe now, the terrors from Ukraine still hunt them.

“If we hear some kind of sharp noise, we can think that this is a war,” said Christina.

Sergei, who is a famous chef in Ukraine is working to keep his presence in Ukraine while building one in America. While Christina, who has a photography background, says she is open to the endless possibilities that may come.

In the meantime, they look to get their son Leon English tutoring lessons and new friends.

“We hope for the victory of Ukraine and for the return to peace,” said Christina. “There will be world peace and all people will be happy.”