The 22 Year Gift


This story I would like to tell is about friends of mine. Friends of my husband’s and mine, who recently got refugee visa’s from the Ukraine, and are now living in Oakville, CT.

Twenty something years ago, my husband is working in the shop, and the woman who was the engineer, she was crying. He said, “What is wrong Galina?” She said that my friend Irina in the Ukraine, she lost her husband at 28 years old of diabetes, because if the was money, there was no medicine, and if there was medicine, there was no money.

And she is surviving on $10 a month which is his social security. And they are surviving on bread and water. If the children finish the bread, then she has water. She’s crying because, “Why did I bring children into this world to live this way?”

My husband said, “Is there any way we can help?” (She said,) “I send money from my family. And if you like, we can work something out, and you can send some money and I’ll be your go-between.” Because we don’t speak Russian.

He set it up, and we sent the first money. She said, “Don’t send a lot of money, because you’ll put her life in danger.” She said, “Like $50 a month would be like winning the lottery for her.”

So, we sent $150 for 3 months.

She went out and bought a pot, because the pot had a hole in it. And a neighbor asked her where she got the money for it. She went out and bought ground meat, which they hadn’t had in 2 years. And she bought some staples that they would need, some root crops that’ll keep, etc.

And every 3 months for 22 years, we sent money to the Ukraine to help this widow and her 2 children. Katie was only 3 at that time. When the Russians invaded, my friend Galina told us it was very hard to get the money to them, but we were able to go through Galina and she sent it to the son who had made it to Romania, and he escaped into Poland and was relocated there.

They lived in Pierston. Which was occupied by the Russians, surrounded by land mines and was occupied, so no-one was allowed to leave.

The Russians were breaking down doors and dragging people out of their apartments. And I prayed every day for her safety and for her daughter’s safety. Finally, they were able to escape Pierston and they got to Poland and were relocated to Germany, where they could not speak the language. It was a small remote village and my friend Galina and her family, especially her son, who is an associate Professor at Colgate, told her. He said, “Irina, I know where you live and I speak the language. If you want, I’ll come and get you.” So, she finally decided she would come. It took her a while, but she finally decided she would come. The refugee base said that she could stay for 2 years, that it can be extended. She gets help from the government.

And Katie, that little girl who was 3 years old is now 28. She has a teaching certificate and she is a child psychologist in Poland, I mean the Ukraine. But, again, you cannot teach here without getting a license in CT, but she is working at a private school with pre-school children with special needs.

So, this is my story of hope, of answers to prayers, and helping somebody. Irina is not an uneducated person. She was an engineer, building ships and exhaust systems when they were in the Ukraine. And she is the one that taught my friend Galina her job there. So, this is how this all came about and we are thrilled to have her here and we’re so happy for them.

Thank you.

by Lois

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Date Recorded: 
Thursday, May 11, 2023
Date Posted: 
Thursday, May 11, 2023
Type of GEM: 
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