CLAREMORE, Okla. — A Claremore church has come to the rescue of Ukrainian refugees. The refugees recently arrived in Oklahoma as part of the Unity for Ukraine program (U4U) which is helping Ukrainians escape their war-torn country.
Claremore’s First United Methodist Church is working with the program to help families acclimate to American life.
The U4U program helps refugees set up housing, learn English and get jobs. Thanks to FUMC, two more Ukrainian families are here and safe from the war.
After months of living in war-torn Mariupol, the Kaziiev family now live in a fully furnished apartment. They have cell phones, food, clothes and even some toys for their two boys.
“We definitely largely appreciate the people who were part of this who helped us save our children and us,” said Viktoria Kasiiev.
The Kasiievs have only been here two weeks but said they’re acclimating well to their new American life.
“Right now our biggest goal is put the children in school and learn English so we can continue working,” Kasiiev said.
The U4U program allows families to stay for 18 to 24 months.
The Kasiievs said they aren’t sure they’ll stay here because they still have family in Ukraine and some who escaped to Germany. But they said they are thankful to be out of danger. They even have some familiar faces nearby in the Matiash family.
“I’ll never forget the morning of March 16th when they came to get us and we risked to leave the city. We had three variations. You either stay and die, or we can drive off and die in the road or we will be lucky and we will survive,” said Olha Matiash.
Both families are sponsored by FUMC. But the Matiash family ended up in Green Country because Marko Matiash's brother left in 2014 during a previous crisis. Alex, the brother, eventually ended up in Tulsa and has been here for three years. And now that the family has been reunited, they said they think they’ll stay.
“Yes, I dreamed about it since I was a child and now my dream has come true. Big thank you to Pastor Ray at First United Methodist Church and my brother Alex. And a big thank you to Lyu for working with our documents,” said Marko Matiash.
Both families said they’re no longer afraid and are eager to get their lives started here. FUMC and Lyu Balabanov, an International Resources Consultant for the families, have helped dozens of Ukrainian families flee the war and come here to Oklahoma. Balabanov said there are still so many people that need help escaping and they will continue to do the work to save as many families as possible.