A family from Ukraine experienced Thanksgiving for the first time in San Francisco with deep heartache, yearning for their loved ones.
Polina Strohetska and her mother Nataliia sat at home, awaiting Thanksgiving dinner, a holiday they’re just learning about.
They are from Dnipro, Ukraine, about a six hour drive southwest of Kyiv. They fled and arrived in San Francisco early October. It was in February when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Now, Ukraine is racing to restore power to cities including the capitol Kyiv. After a night of Russian air strikes caused the biggest outage in months.
Nataliia’s focus is on her son. He’s now fighting for Ukraine after turning 18 over the summer and a harsh winter is here.
“There is no electricity, no water, no heating in the apartment. It’s really cold and I don’t really know how to help him,” said Polina Stohetska.
While they still grieve. Natalia’s husband, who was an engineer, was killed in the war in July.
The only way they’ve been able to get through each day has been because of volunteers.
“What was astounding and great to see is that the amount of volunteers that came together. So we’re a core group of 12 to 13 people that has really embraced this endeavor,” said Mads Lillelund of San Francisco.
It was big endeavor to get the Stohetska family to appointments, get paperwork done, or just sight seeing. While they try to patch the giant holes in their hearts.
They said it’s important is it to eventually have the rest of the family together.
“A lot, a lot. So much importance,” said Ukrainian Refugee Nataliia Stohetska.
Nataliia Stohetska said she’s thankful for the volunteers who’ve helped them.
That group is now working to figure out how what they’ve learned can be applied to other volunteers who want to quickly set up a support network for incoming refugees.