Support Ukrainian Refugee Family of 6 in North Bay

Hi! I’m Geoff Peters. I live in Cloverdale, and I want to tell you about a Ukrainian family of six who moved here under the Uniting for Ukraine program, and how the community reacted to them.

When we think of the essence of what a community is, we think of people caring for and supporting one another. Typically, that caring is directed to long term members of the community who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in need of help.

Cloverdale, however, is a community of such generous spirit that they extend their caring to strangers in need.

The Family
A family of six: (Oleksandr (father), Mariia (mother), Nina (grandmother) and 3 daughters - Ahnessa (age 10), Anhelina (age 15, and Eleonora (age 17)) left Odessa after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine when rockets landed 3 km from their home. Dad and Mom wanted to protect their family from the rockets and their teenage daughters from war and Russian soldiers.

They all got in a car with no more than one suitcase each, left their home, Oleksandr’s small business, and their pet cats and dogs and in the middle of the night attempted their escape.

They ended up in a line of 250+ cars at the border of Ukraine and Romania. They waited more than 24 hours in line to see if they would be allowed to cross. When their turn came, they were told by border guards that males under age 55 would not be allowed to leave Ukraine because they were needed for military duty. But as the border guards processed them it became clear that Oleksandr was the father of three daughters and the guards told them that President Zelenskyy’s order exempted males accompanying more than two children, so they were allowed to cross into Romania.

While in Romania both they and I heard of a website where refugees seeking relocation and those seeking to help could “match” each other. Maria e-mailed me through the website and asked if we could house a family of six. My son happened to have purchased a home next to our farm which he intended to rent out for several years and I asked if he would consider donating it for the two years that a Ukrainian family was permitted to relocate to the US. He said yes so, I started with Maria to complete the Uniting for Ukraine paperwork which took a month and another month for them to process. My wife and I were on vacation on board a ship in Greenland when they finally were approved and told they had one week to land in San Francisco. We got that news while away and so we called neighbors and friends who literally furnished the empty house from top to bottom with everything a family that had lost everything in their home in Odessa might need.

My grandchildren greeted the Bezhenars at SFO and arranged for a Russian speaking driver to take them to Cloverdale where everything they might need was awaiting them including a full refrigerator and a welcome cake with a Ukrainian sunflower for decoration.

We didn’t meet them in person until a couple of days later and they had already been visited by members of the community bringing them home cooked food and inviting them for lunches and barbeques. When one visitor learned that the girls were musicians very soon thereafter a piano was donated. When my singer-songwriter sister heard that we’d sponsored a Ukrainian family that included teenage musicians two brand new guitars arrived from Nashville.

They arrived in the US at the end of May with one suitcase for each person leaving behind everything they owned including their home their pets and Dad’s small business and they are literally starting over but through the family’s perseverance and hard work they are working, going to school, and adjusting well to life in the US. They have fallen in love with Cloverdale and Sonoma County and now wish to apply for permanent residence status as the dad rebuilds his business which was in Ukraine and now will be in Sonoma County.

Since arriving the older girls have enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College, the parents have secured CA driver’s licenses, Oleksandr has, after a 3-month delay, received authorization to work and is working 6 days per week, they are all learning fluent English, and they have met many of their supporters in the community at various events. They have decided they would like to remain in the US (in Cloverdale) if they can get through the immigration process, which with legal fees is expensive. I established this GoFundMe account for them to help them raise funds for this and other purposes.

Attached is a link to a story about their 10-year-old daughter and how she missed her cat.

The funds will be used exclusively to support this family including:
* an immigration lawyer to help get permanent citizenship - $12000
* US cell phone service - $100 per month for 3 phones - $2400
* a used car and gas and insurance for the car so the kids can get to school and the Dad can get to work - $8000
* funds to help Dad start his own wallpaper business - $5000

Donors who leave an email address can receive pictures and periodic updates on their progress.

Donations (148)

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  • lavonna ray
    • $100 
    • 16 hrs
  • Susan Benson
    • $50 
    • 6 d
  • Anonymous
    • $50 
    • 23 d
  • Jeffrey Lugerner
    • $100 
    • 26 d
  • Linda Mattson
    • $100 
    • 28 d
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Geoffrey Peters
Cloverdale, CA
Mariia Bezhenar

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