RALEIGH N.C. (WNCN) – With dozens of Ukrainian families finding refuge in the Triangle, getting here is just the first part of a long, and often complicated, process of settling in.
Iryna Pyrhova and her family couldn’t go back to their home in southeastern Ukraine even if they tried, as Russian forces occupy their city.
“At this moment, we cannot go there because you cannot go in the occupied territory,” Pyrohova said.
Pyrohova fled in February with the help of airline miles donated by an Apex man.
Just one month ago, her sister and nieces arrived after leaving behind their dream home they built in Ukraine.
“And they left with small luggage for the three of them,” Pyrhova said.
The family is currently on special humanitarian parole.
Through the Homeland Security program Uniting for Ukraine, qualified United States citizens can sponsor refugees for up to two years.
With the help of a sponsor, volunteers and local Ukrainian groups, they now are navigating building a new life. They’re looking for their own home, setting up school for the fall, learning English and waiting anxiously for approval to work.
“This is making life quite complicated,” Pyrhova said.
Additionally, Kelly Mikhailiuk is among the North Carolinians volunteering with the organization Ukrainians in the Carolinas her to coordinate these needs for families arriving in the state.
“There are a lot of people out there who want to help and there are a lot of people who need help,” Mikhailiuk said. “Sometimes you just need somebody to connect the dots.”
She said beyond basic necessities, the group has been working to create community events to connect refugees, as many of the families she helps have never been to the U.S.
“We have people right here in our midst that we can love on,” Mikhailiuk said.
Pyrohova said she’s been overwhelmed by the support in North Carolina, but her parents are still in Ukraine, leaving her here halfway around the world.
“You live here, it’s like heaven. Everything is good here, but your mind is there,” Pyrohova said. “Every time, you’re thinking about your parents.”
Mikhailiuk said her group knows of around 30 families relocated in the Triangle, but she believes there are more.