From Ukraine to Illinois

The bomb alarms were going off several times a night in February. Natalie and her husband Alex quickly dressed their 5 children in their warmest clothes and walked the 8 flights of stairs down to the basement shelter. There they huddled and prayed.

The Russians quickly overtook their city of Kharkiv, and after a week of fleeing to lower ground for safety, Natalie and Alex made the decision to leave Ukraine. Because Alex has 3+ children, he was permitted to leave with his family (men with 1 or 2 children are required to stay and fight).

In addition to their 5 young children, Natalie was 8 months pregnant, which made boarding a train packed with 80+ people per car not an option for the family. Instead, the couple decided to cross the country in their van. Natalie had one hour to pack the family to leave.

“All of our friends thought we were crazy – our van was large and would be a bombing target. But we knew God was with us,” shares Natalie.

They called their pastor and explained their plans to head West, across Ukraine, with hopes to cross into Hungary. The pastor made phone calls and set up checkpoints across the country – Christian homes and churches along the route where the family could stop, eat, rest, and pray.

Christians helped the family get safely across Ukraine into Hungary, then onto Slovakia. Their son, Michael, was born shortly after entering Slovakia. The family set their sights on coming to the United States.

Both Natalie and Alex grew up in the 1980s in the Western provinces of Russia (now Ukraine). When the Soviet Union collapsed, there were no jobs, no food, no opportunities for education, and violence. Natalie’s family was also persecuted for being Christian (Christians are known for their ability to UNITE, which posed a threat to communism).

In 1995, Natalie’s parents gathered their 5 children (Natalie was 14 years old) and one bag and boarded a plane for the United States. They were sponsored by Natalie’s sister, who had arrived in Washington state three years prior. Natalie spoke no English but learned quickly. She attended high school and a few years of college in the United States.

In 2009, Natalie met Alex, a Christian man who lived in Ukraine. Natalie returned to Ukraine and married Alex, and the couple began their life together. “I tease him that the only way I got him to come to the United States was war,” Natalie explains, trying to make light of their situation. 

Natalie, Alex, and their children are currently living with Natalie’s mother in Batavia. Their oldest began 6th grade, speaking only a little English. The other children are now learning English for the first time, as they attend schools in our community.

Through connections in the Batavia Schools, Radical Love was introduced to Natalie and her family and is helping the family acclimate and offering friendship. The older girls are now practicing with a local soccer team, engaging in music lessons, and went shopping for needed clothing and baby items. The family began attending church and plugging into their new community.

With Natalie’s gift of languages, she’s been able to connect with, translate for, and help other Ukrainian families in the area. She’s able to quickly assess needs and connect families with organizations like Radical Love, which can provide help and resources.

Natalie and Alex are currently looking for housing; they are hopeful of finding a house to rent in or near Batavia with six small children. Please pray with us for this need to be filled soon.

In February, as the sirens in Ukraine were going off and everyone around them was in panic mode, Natalie and Alex remained calm, sharing, “We knew God was with us. And He’s still with us. One day at a time.”

“The LORD is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

– Psalm 27:1

Partner with families like Natalie and Alex’s this Christmas

Many people in our community have fled their home countries because of war and violence. They are here trying to create a new life for their families. 

We can love and help.

Sign-up to be a Partner Family this November for our Community Christmas event. Gather a group of friends, neighbors, and/or co-workers to fill the needs and wishes on a family’s Christmas list. 

If you live far away, but want to help, consider making a donation to Radical Love. Funds will be used to purchase needed personal, household, and food items. 

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