Ukrainian family living in Portland escaped Russian invasion

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 10:20 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Friday marks one year since Russia invaded Ukraine. This time last year, Konstantin Zamrykot, his wife Liliia, and their three kids were living in a town near Kyiv.

“Everyone was caught by war at night,” said Yulia Shipulina, a Community Outreach Specialist for Lutheran Community Services NW, who translated for the Zamrykots. “He says they heard the bombs in the morning so hard. The military airport is close to their home. It was hard at the beginning. They had to go to the basement, which was hard because their daughter Rosalina is disabled and cannot walk. They started to look at the news and the Russian army started to get closer to Kyiv. Their home was about 15 miles from the base of the Russian army. All the time there was red light in the sky. All the time fighting was happening.”

After three days they decided to leave, but didn’t know where to go. Konstantin says he reached out to friends in Belgium, who agreed to let them stay. They traveled to Belgium and stayed their several months before moving to Portland to be with Liliia’s sister Natalia.

Natalia says when she first heard the bombs, she thought someone was shooting off fireworks.

“She heard one, two, three go off when she realized this was the war,” said Shipulina. “She started to contact her sisters and pray. The whole house was shaking. She ended up going to Romania, then Moldova, Mexico, and came to America.”

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Natalia says she is still very worried about her family and friends who stayed in Ukraine and is thankful to be in the US. The Zamrykots echoed the sentiment, but say the adjustment to live in the US hasn’t been easy these last few months.

“They still have a lot of worries,” said Shipulina. “They got work authorization, but there isn’t an opportunity for them to get rental housing. They ask if anyone knows any organizations who can help them. They are also trying to get a wheelchair for Rosalina. She loves being outside and in nature, but they haven’t been able to get her one.”

Shipulina has been helping the Zamrykots since they came to Oregon.

“Right now we provide help to Ukrainian newcomers,” said Shipulina. “Our focus is mental health. Our goal is to help people adjust to new place. We really care about their emotional well-being and want to reduce their post-traumatic stress after being in a war. We help them build connections here and help them build a life here.”

Shipulina says around 6,000 Ukrainian refugees are currently living in Oregon and SW Washington.

Learn more about Lutheran Community Services NW here: