Provo neighborhood welcomes Ukrainian refugee family with parade

Apr 11, 2022, 10:15 PM | Updated: Jun 11, 2022, 10:34 pm

PROVO, Utah — A Utah County neighborhood is giving a refugee family from Ukraine a warm welcome to Utah, making sure they feel loved and supported after fleeing from their home.

Monday evening, a crowd gathered on a street on the east side of Provo. Neighbor Becky Call passed out small Ukrainian flags. Some carried posters as they walked. A few held bouquets of bright yellow flowers.

Everyone was eager to meet the new neighbors and awaited their arrival.

Lena Graff walked up the street to help make the introductions. Soon after that, two women and a teen girl appeared from inside a home and walked toward the crowd. As they arrived, they were handed the flowers and greeted with smiles.

“This is my little sister,” Lena said as Sveta Samaileko walked into the crowd. “This is my niece, Sveta.”

Sveta Vladon also walked up. Lena then introduced her other sister and Sveta’s mother, Oksana Vladon.

Sveta, 14, is named after her aunt.

The two sisters Sveta and Oksana don’t speak English, but the younger Sveta is learning.

Lena explained to her neighbors what the three went through as they spent more than a month trying to get from Ukraine to Utah.

Sveta, who lives in Kyiv, left the day the war started and began to head west toward Poland to get across the border. As Lena translated, Sveta explained that her boyfriend called and told her that bombs were falling into Kyiv, and she needed to pick up and go.

Oksana and Sveta, Graff explained, live in a village 200 kilometers from Kyiv. Because Sveta is in school and Oksana’s husband is fighting in the war, they weren’t sure what to do, so they waited.

Lena said she called them one day and told them they needed to get out. She found them a car that picked them up an hour later.

They didn’t have time to say goodbye to other family members or friends.

“They literally grabbed a hoodie and that’s it. They left everything,” Lena said.

Oksana and her daughter spent days dodging Russian troops, taking a week to make what’s normally an eight-hour drive to the border, Lena said.

They walked across the border into Hungary.

While their home in Ukraine is still OK — where Oksana’s husband is still fighting — Sveta’s home is a different story.

“Her apartment is completely demolished; there’s no more apartment,” Lena said, talking to a neighbor. “Whatever she had, her possessions are all gone.”

Lena took off for Europe and met up with her sisters and niece in Hungary. After four days in Hungary, they flew to Amsterdam and spent a week trying to secure visas to Canada.

Eventually, everyone made it to Calgary. Lena returned home, and then later decided to try to get her sisters and niece into the U.S.

“I drove to Calgary, got them in the car and drove to the border,” Lena recounted.

She said that border patrol handed them visas on the spot.

“And here they are. I couldn’t believe it. I was really happy, and they couldn’t believe it.”

Sveta left behind her boyfriend, who works for the police at a security checkpoint, and Oksana’s husband will continue fighting in the war. Lena said they’ve been able to talk with their significant others and hope to eventually reunite.

But right now, the women are safe.

Fleeing from chaos, Sveta, Oksana and Sveta arrived to an outpouring of kindness.

After they gathered and met the family, they spread out along the street. The four walked down the middle of the road as everyone cheered them on, waving Ukrainian flags.

The sisters smiled, looking around them and seeing newfound family, friends, and community.

“I just want them to know that we’re all in this together,” said Becky Call, the neighbor who organized the welcome parade.

Sveta expressed her gratitude for the support as Lena translated.

“She said it’s absolutely amazing that everyone came together, and saying hello and welcome,” she said. “And I feel really blessed.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Charges against Linda Tracy Gillman were dismissed after the state was not ready to move forward wi...
Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

Charges dropped for 75-year-old woman accused of hiring hit man

Linda Tracy Gillman is already in prison after being convicted of trying to hire a hit man to kill her ex-husband and was scheduled to be on trial for attempting to hire another person, to eliminate evidence and a witness in that case.
21 hours ago
Jed Boal

Plow drivers needed, but UDOT says the storm itself was the source of delay

Was it staffing issues or the storm itself at the source of traffic troubles Monday night and Tuesday morning across the Wasatch Front?
21 hours ago
Tamara Vaifanua

Festival of Trees showcases 11-year-old who persevered against the odds

Patient Champion of the Festival of the Trees celebrates an 11-year-old girl who lost her leg in an accident six years ago and is now defying the odds.
21 hours ago
Beaver Mountain ready...
Mike Anderson

Cache Valley resorts cashing in on early start dates

Ski resorts in Cache Valley planned for some of their earliest start dates in about a decade thanks to our recent storms.
21 hours ago
(Shelby Lofton/KSL TV)...
Shelby Lofton

Dispatchers get accidental 911 calls from skiers because of iPhone crash technology

Summit County dispatchers are seeing an uptick in accidental emergency calls from skiers. The new crash technology on iPhones is designed to detect severe car crashes, but it's often accidentally activated at ski resorts.
21 hours ago
Eli Mitchell (Courtesy Mitchell family)...
Michael Houck

Man pleads guilty to fatal hit-and-run involving West Jordan teen

The man suspected of killing a West Jordan 13-year-old riding his bike in April has pleaded guilty to two felony charges. 
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Provo neighborhood welcomes Ukrainian refugee family with parade