The five members of the Stelmashcuk Family are Ukrainian refugees who have shown strength and perseverance through the unimaginable. Having fled their home in war-torn Kyiv, they are now trying to rebuild their lives here on Long Island.
Nataliia Akinina, born in Ukraine and a legal permanent US resident, urged her family in Kyiv to come to New York and escape the war in Ukraine. Reluctant to leave their homes and husbands, Juliia (age 32) and her two girls Karolina (age 5) and Kristina (age 13), along with Viktoriia (age 36) and her daughter Marharyta (age 4), began their escape. The journey included living in bomb shelters and driving more than 48 hours to cross the border into Poland. Viktoriia experienced a terrible injury during their travels that required emergency surgery, leaving her in two long leg casts and unable to move without assistance. The next challenge was to secure the necessary documentation via the Embassy for all to legally come to the United States. With the help of Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Tom Suozzi, and Northwell Health advocating for the family, their visas were granted, and all five refugees arrived in New York on April 8, 2022.
Viktoriia is now under the charitable care of Northwell Health, which took her from the airport by ambulance to Lenox Hill so that doctors could address her medical status. We hope that Viktoriia will be able to bend her knees again and walk without the support of a walker or need assistance from a caretaker.
They don’t know when they will see the families, homes, and friends they left behind in Kyiv or their husbands, who stayed behind to protect the country. Currently, the five family members are settling into the home of their friend Ruby, for whom Nataliia provides full-time care. Ruby and her family are in the process of helping Juliia and Viktoriia register their girls for school.
But, there is still much more to do. Juliia needs the proper documentation so that she can work and help support her family. Viktoriia needs to heal and treat her autoimmune issues, which were neglected once the war began. The family is speaking with an attorney to help address their interest in staying in New York and applying for citizenship.
The family is bright, resilient, educated, and eager to learn and improve their ability to speak English. Juliia, who has a background in law and worked as a magazine publisher in Kyiv, is considering going to nursing school so that she can give back to the region that welcomed her and her family. As a teenager, Kristina misses her friends terribly but is ready to start school in Lynbrook. While in Poland and now New York, Kristina has continued attending school online with her classmates from Kyiv. Viktoriia, who finds this journey particularly harrowing, seems at ease and confident in the care she is getting in New York.
HOW CMM CARES IS HELPING
All five refugees are settling into life in Lynbrook and the home is currently being prepared for the new occupants. The home’s upstairs bathroom now must accommodate five additional people. Ideally, the bathroom would be gutted with a new shower, fixtures, etc. At the very least, the bathroom needs tile replacement, ceiling repair, and hallway painting. Improvements to the bedrooms are completed, and the basement is being updated, both by volunteers.
An immigration attorney has been secured. CMM Cares has covered the retainer and will continue to cover the fees.
Therapeutic Horse Riding:
Katherine and Karolina are riding at Sagamore Hill Stables in Northport. Katherine especially looks forward to these lessons. As an aside, when she was in Poland as a refugee, she cried every night because she readily understood the danger and uncertainty ahead. Now, we are so grateful for the restorative benefits she gets at the stable.
All five refugees would benefit from English lessons. Academically, Katherine could be in high school but she doesn’t have the vocabulary yet. Karolina and Marharyta would benefit, as would Viktoriia who speaks very little English. Jane speaks English well but wants to become proficient so that she can be of value in the workplace.
The family has received donations for spring and summer but they will need fall and winter clothing.
If you’re interested in helping us support this family with in-kind donations, and financial support for our plans, or if you know local businesses that may be interested in participating, please contact Victoria at firstname.lastname@example.org.