This is the second of a two-part series highlighting how Ukrainian refugees have resettled in Fort Worth, one year after Russia invaded Ukraine. You may read part one here.
When Anastasia and Dmytro Tishutin still lived in Kyiv, they could pick up the phone, give their family members a quick call, and have them over within an hour.
Now, over 5,000 miles from their home, the visits are limited to phone calls.
Anastasia, a 32-year-old kindergarten art teacher, fled Kyiv with her 6-year-old daughter in March. Like many other women and children, she crossed the Romanian border on foot in the dead of winter — a three-hour ordeal. Crossing by car took too long.
Anastasia reunited with her husband, 34-year-old Dmytro, who was working in Poland at that time, before resettling in Fort Worth with extended family.
Speaking through an interpreter, the couple said getting their daughter out was her priority. Anastasia recalled how frightened her daughter was of the air sirens -– and the airplanes flying overhead.
The Tishutin family was able to come to the U.S. through President Joe Biden’s Uniting for Ukraine program, a humanitarian effort to relocate 100,000 Ukrainians to the U.S. They are now staying in Azle with an aunt and uncle, who sponsored their move to the U.S.
For the Tishutins, it was important for them to find a way to be independent and self-sufficient. Four months after applying for work authorization, they have been able to find work. That was one of the hardest parts of settling here, they said.
A lot of refugees who resettle often have a learning curve during their adjustment period. Everything from transportation to sending mail, and paying bills can be different, said Amy Vallaster, case manager for the Tishutins at Catholic Charities.
Even beyond the daily life adjustments, the mental and social effect of relocation can take a toll, hence the importance of finding a community, Vallaster said.“It’s not just about the physicality of it,” she said. “It’s also about treating their soul and treating them with dignity during this time of just immense upheaval where their entire lives have been overturned.”
Today, Dmytro works in an Amazon warehouse while Anastasia is a lunch monitor at an elementary school. While the couple is a long way from home, they are thankful for the help – moral and financial – they’ve received from Catholic Charities and their case manager.
“They did a great job helping us with our rental the first time we moved. They helped with some things when moving and it was a pleasant surprise. We really appreciate the help of everyone who supports us here,” they said.
But even with the welcome they’ve received, they are still worried about their homeland on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
The Tishutin family prefers to stay in the U.S. at this time, away from Russian aggression and where they feel safer.
Still, they miss their family in Ukraine. And while they’re not political people, they know this war is wrong.“People shouldn’t have to live in fear. Children shouldn’t be dying because their schools and apartments are being bombed,” Anastasia said.
While Ukraine has held up longer than most anticipated, the conflict could be far from over, said Ralph Carter, a political science professor at TCU.
“Russia has established a series of things that in the literature we call ‘frozen conflicts’ that are unresolved, but Russian presence is still there. They’ve done it in Georgia. They’ve done it in Moldova,” Carter said. “So it’s a possibility that this could linger as a minor ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine for years.”
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @ssadek19.
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