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Ukrainian Children Hopeful in Palm Beach County

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has not discriminated against its victims. Ukrainian civilians, regardless of educational attainment or economic status, lost their homes and livelihood following Russia’s continuous bombing and airstrikes. While adults are able to somehow comprehend what’s happening, children are the most vulnerable and it’s difficult to measure the war’s effect on them.

Millions of Ukrainians fled their homes and sought refuge in neighboring countries. Thousands of refugees have found safety in the US and hundreds more are still waiting at the Mexican border to enter the country.

Two families with their children fled Ukraine and now live in Palm Beach Country, reports The children attend school and start to return to some semblance of normalcy.

We thank God for everything we have here. —Oksana Zinchenko, Ukrainian mother

Ukrainian mother Oksana Zinchenko shared the terror they experienced. “When the bombing was continuing one whole day, we have to leave because we were scared. In 10 minutes we were ready to leave and we didn’t have any plan where to go.”

Arriving in the US, they still carry the fear brought by the war. “When we arrived, at the beginning we did not understand a lot of things and we were scared when we hear the planes flying around,” she said. “Later we met nice people here who started to help us.”

Fellow refugee Marina Kozachok said they had to leave the country to find safer grounds. They had to walk more than 550 miles just to escape the war and reach the border with Hungary. “Because of friends who are helping us a lot, we feel safe here now.”

“We were living in such a peaceful country. Ukrainian people, we are peaceful and friendly people,” Kozachok added. “We were forced to leave our houses. We lost our jobs.”

For the two mothers, material things didn’t matter. They left Ukraine without bringing any of their belongings. The two families came to the US with nothing, but were warmly welcomed by their new community. They are thankful for the kindness and generosity of Americans.

“We thank God for everything we have here. Our kids went to school,” Zinchenko said.

Since children refugees are sensitive to the negative effects of war, it is important that they join a school and continue with their studies. “Schools are uniquely placed to play a vital part in their integration by becoming an anchor, not only for educational but also for social and emotional development, and as an essential link between children, their parents and the local community,” reports Al Jazeera.

Red Apple Supplies in Riviera Beach is a big help in transitioning the kids to school. The children chose school supplies, backpacks, and other essentials. The program has distributed over $1 million in free school supplies in Palm Beach County since opening in 2016.

“It was an amazing feeling for us,” said James Gavrilos, CEO of the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County. “It was so emotional as we were taking these young kids around and we made it fun for them. We let them pick out their own backpacks and we walked them up and down our aisles.”

Ukrainians are hopeful for an end of the war and a promising future for their children. “We would love to see Ukraine with no war and hope to live there again,” Zinchenko said.


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