Anchorage welcomes Ukrainian refugees

Ukrainian refugees arrive in Anchorage to start a new life.
Published: May. 21, 2022 at 10:53 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A group of 12 Ukrainian refugees arrived Saturday morning at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. For nearly three months, the Ukraine Relief Program has been working to bring Ukrainians impacted by the war to Alaska.

“We have waited for this moment, ever since we got started. It has been almost three months in the making. We are just really glad it is finally happening,” Ukraine Relief Program Director Zori Opanasevych said.

After raising $150,000, the small group landed in Anchorage ready to start a new chapter of their lives.

“I think this is safety (sic) place for our family and we hope we will be in safety here,” Ukrainian refugee Mariia Bershytska said.

Bershytska flew in on Saturday with her husband. The two of them are meeting his family and hope that Alaska could potentially be a new home for them. Many like them shared a similar story and were greeted by family members.

Oksana Gillespie was reunited with her sister, Hannah, at the airport. She said her older sister’s arrival was a long-awaited reunion.

“Since she called me at five in the morning for her‚” Gillespie said. “And she said there are missiles flying over our heads, and I said pack your bags and leave. She couldn’t. She was a nurse. She had a job to do.”

Today, the two were finally able to reunite.

“Unreal that she was able to come here and I can offer her that safety that she couldn’t go through,” Gillespie said.

However, despite Gillespie being able to give her sister a safe, new home, the nightmares of the war in Ukraine are close to her heart. In Ukraine, she still has her husband and the two sisters also have a brother who is fighting in the war.

“She is extremely happy but the reason that she is here is painful and the unfortunate events of the war will not necessarily cover the happiness of being reunited because we still have families that are suffering,” Gillespie said, interpreting for her sister.

Gillespie said now with her sister here, it gives her a mission to make sure everyone can have a safe place to call home.

“To have my sister, this is a big push for me to do more and help others,” Gillespie said.

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