Nearly 30 years ago, Tetiana had been a high school exchange student living with a host family near Flint. After Tetiana returned to Ukraine, she stayed in touch with her host mom and host sister, Nancy and Jeannie.
After the war broke out, Jeannie frantically contacted Tetiana to see if her family was safe. During their ongoing communication, Jeannie offered to sponsor Tetiana and Olesia in her Traverse City home where she had space for a basement apartment. Although Olesia was upset about traveling still further away from her homeland, she was excited to meet Jeannie and her family after hearing so much about them throughout the years. After Tetiana and Olesia accepted the invitation last fall, Jeannie contacted the JFON-MI office in Traverse City to seek help with the sponsorship process through the Uniting for Ukraine program. Everything moved quickly, and on January 12, 2023, Tetiana, Olesia, and their cat Knopa traveled to the U.S. On the flight to Detroit, Tetiana cried tears of relief that they would have a safe place to stay with people they knew and loved. Arriving in Traverse City, they were welcomed with open arms by Jeannie and her family and friends.
Once in Michigan, Bethany Christian Services helped them settle into their new home, and JFON-MI attorney Marcelo Betti completed the paperwork for their work permits. At Michigan Works, Tetiana learned about a job opening that fit her skills. Now she helps other people navigate the process of finding work, including other Ukrainians arriving in northern Michigan. Hired to help in the kitchen at local coffee shop Mundos, Olesia has already received a promotion and enjoys her job and colleagues.
The trauma of leaving their home in Ukraine over a year ago has caused nightmares, insomnia, and sorrow. Olesia and Tetiana are deeply grateful to Jeannie’s family for the generous hospitality and care they’re providing during their displacement. Looking forward to the day they can safely return to Ukraine, they’ve already made plans to host Jeannie and her family to proudly show them their country that they so dearly love and miss.