Donations sought as 300 Ukrainian refugees come to Utah

Jul 7, 2022, 9:40 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of Ukrainian refugees will soon be calling Utah home, and a Salt Lake City organization is making sure they have a place to live and work when they reach the Beehive State.

Catholic Community Services is calling on the community for help as families filter in having fled the war.

In a Sandy apartment Wednesday afternoon, Anna, a young toddler, sat in between her parents, looking at the book “First 100 Words.”

“Cry,” mom Yana Mukhataieva said, reading the word under a picture with a little girl’s face crying. Anna began to rub her eyes, to mimic crying.

As she learns her first English words, she’s learning life in a new country.

Yana and her husband Bohdan Mukhataieva are still unpacking, with boxes in the corner. They recounted making the decision to leave their war-torn home in Ukraine. They watched bombings and missile strikes every day up until they fled to Poland. At times, they had no access to food and had to go without eating to make their resources stretch.

Walking outside was a gamble, and they explained that Russian soldiers would shoot people on the streets.

Bohdan explained that their apartment in Kharkiv wasn’t safe. They taped the windows to avoid glass shattering from the bombs and slept on the floor of their bathroom, away from the outer walls.

“We lived 10 days in bomb shelter,” Bohdan said.

“Yeah, we were sleeping in the underground parking because it was dangerous to sleep in our apartment,” Yana echoed.

The couple eventually left their apartment for Lviv, but life there was also dangerous.

“We decided that because we have a small kid, we need to leave,” Yana said.

The couple arrived in Utah from Ukraine with Anna and their pup, Cola, thanks to local lawyer Lorem Lambert who they met five years ago. They say Lambert taught at their University in Ukraine, and they stayed connected on Facebook. Yana reached out, and Loren was willing to sponsor them through the program Uniting for Ukraine.

The two, who were both attorneys in Kharkiv, are now starting from scratch. They won’t be able to practice law in Utah and must find new industries to work in. They also needed to find a place to live and had to buy all new clothes and furnishings.

The family moved into the Sandy apartment with help from Catholic Community Services of Utah.

CCS of Utah is currently doing the same for more than two dozen Ukrainians who have already arrived, that Director of Migration and Refugee Services Aden Batar explained are part of the 300 refugees sponsored by Utahns through Uniting for Ukraine.

“We provide case management, employment services, health services, education for their children, matching them with volunteers,” Batar said.

But in order to help the hundreds coming in, he said they need more volunteers, plus donations like furniture, household items, and electronics, including laptops. They’re also looking for employers willing to hire refugees, and for people willing to foster children who arrive without their families.

The goal is to help the refugees become self-sufficient in a short period of time, he said.

“We’re trying to rebuild their lives and provide them all the basics that they need so they can become part of our community,” he said.

Batar mentioned that CCS of Utah also helps refugees navigate long-term immigration status and employment authorization.

The Mukhataievas are thankful for that help as they wait on their work permits. Their hope is to stay in Utah for at least two years.

They’re also hoping to build a safer life for little Anna.

“It’s very hard to leave your home, but it will be better to stay here,” Yana said.

Click here to learn how to help CCS of Utah welcome in Ukrainian refugees, including how to donate and volunteer.

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Donations sought as 300 Ukrainian refugees come to Utah