I am a U.S. soldier in the Army Reserves with the 957th Quartermaster Company based in Denton, Texas. My name is Dmitriy Bondarenko, and I live with my parents and my sister in Lucas, Texas. My parents and I work together in an online family business. My sister is a student at Collin County Community College.
In 1999, our family sold everything and immigrated to America from Ukraine after we won an immigration lottery for which my grandmother applied. This Diversity Visa Program is a United States congressional lottery program for receiving a permanent resident card and eventually a citizenship in 2011..
This past Monday afternoon, December 11, 2017, while returning in convoy with my unit from training exercises in San Antonio, I received a life-changing telephone call. I was surprised to hear the voice of my close friend in Lucas. He said there was a massive fire in progress on my street and all the roads were blocked off.
My heart lurched. Could my family’s home be on fire? Immediately I called my mother and then my father. Neither of them answered, so I called my sister. With a heavy heart she told me that our entire barn was engulfed in flames. I couldn’t comprehend the reality of what she said, so I asked to speak to my father. It was only as I heard his broken voice that I grasped the true impact of the situation.
My father explained that our barn, all our investment cars, and all the stock we had been accumulating in order to open an online auto parts store, and all our family's stored sentimental belongings had turned to ash. Everything our family had worked so hard for was all gone in the matter of minutes. For 18 years we had been investing everything into opening an online auto parts shop. My father and I remodeled our barn and used it to store these collected parts. We lost the foundation of our future that we’d worked so hard to build.
After I hung up from speaking with my father, I was in shock. Our life had been turned upside down and I couldn’t grasp this reality. When I arrived home late that night the darkness hid the fire’s horrible destruction in our backyard, but I saw the scars it left on my parents. Their faces and arms were burned and charred from frantically trying to save their future hope. Seeing my mother’s face filled with tears and loss I knew I had to be strong for them.
I am reminded just of the enumerable hardships my parents endured in Ukraine. I can’t forget the hope they had for a better life in America for their children when they arrived with only a few hundred dollars and a couple of suitcases. I am amazed at their extraordinary fortitude and perseverance. I don’t know what God has instore for us through this experience, but my faith is strong. I know he can turn ash into something incredible. I know we can rebuild and that our American dream won’t stop here. I want to thank everyone who has answered my call for help, thank you so much.
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