Doubling up homes to help Ukrainians

Posted 8/16/22

John Schmidt has started learning a bit of Ukrainian using Google, simple phrases like “good morning.” His wife Stacey is rearranging their home in Norwood to accommodate a family of …

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Doubling up homes to help Ukrainians


John Schmidt has started learning a bit of Ukrainian using Google, simple phrases like “good morning.” His wife Stacey is rearranging their home in Norwood to accommodate a family of three they hope to meet sometime soon. The family, Ivan, Tetianna and their 14-year old son Matvey could be staying with the Schmidts for a year, maybe longer. They don’t know.

In fact, they don’t even know if the Sabchenkos will make it to this country. There are so many hurdles from getting out of Ukraine to where to get a flight to this country to obtaining visas and raising the money to make it happen.

The Schmidts have no doubt this is what they want to do. 

Seeds to wanting to help Ukrainians were sown when Russian invaded the country in February. At first, says John, they didn’t believe it was actually happening.

“We were shocked; we wanted to do something a little more direct than giving money to the Red Cross.”

As the situation intensified and it was apparent the war wouldn’t be over in a matter of weeks, John and Stacey talked about how they might help a family. John, who is the Principal of the Rhode Island Alternative Academy, learned of federal programs to help Ukrainian refuges. Over dinner, they discussed the concept of hosting a family with their children, Jacoby and Natalie. The children were fully supportive. John returned to the internet and selected the Welcome.US. In June he filed an application listing how large a family they could host that included their own family profile. They didn’t hear anything until a month later when the post went live. Then, all of a sudden, they started getting responses. They responded to all of them, applauding their interest in coming to this country and seeking additional details about their families. Eventually it narrowed down to two families and then the Sanchenkos.      

They found through an exchange of emails – Google helped with the translations – that the families shared interest in sports and outdoor activities. They also got a glimpse of what the Sanchenkos have been through although details were skimpy when it came to the war. They were living in Zaporizhzhia Oblast when the Russians targeted the nearby power plant. Leaving behind close family members, they fled to Rivens where they found an apartment to rent for a limited period. Rivens is about 250 miles from the Polish border. According to Stacey, the family made the decision they wanted to come to his country when they left Zaporizhzhia. 

Ivan is a truck driver by trade, although Stacey couldn’t say whether he or his wife, who worked as a medical secretary still have jobs. She suspects not.  John is already thinking ahead to finding them training and jobs here. He said Dorcas International in Providence has been especially helpful in sorting out the steps needed to bring the Sabchenkos here and how to prepare for their arrival. Those who have learned of what they doing have been generous in their support. They have received about $2,300 in donations and offers of furniture and clothing.

John isn’t ready to take on furniture donations until the Sabchenkos have a place of their own and clothing donations don’t make sense until they know what the family needs. The Schmidts live in a ranch house and plan to use the lower level living room as the Sabchenkos’ master bedroom. A smaller room to one side, now Jacoby’s bedroom, will become Matvey’s room and Jacoby will move in with his sister. There is also a full bath on the same floor. John doesn’t know what kind of conditions the Sabchenkos are living in now but, from the exchange of emails that have tapered off in recent weeks, he knows they have to be out of the apartment by Sunday.

Last week when the Schmidts set up a table at their neighbor, Shaun Galligan’s campaign fundraiser at the Warwick Firefighters club, donations poured in. Galligan is running for School Committee District 1 and faces a primary on Sept. 13 with Frank Allan Brown, Tara Levasseur and William Okerholm. The two highest voter getters in the non partisan race with face off in the general election.

Galligan urged the Schmidts to attend his event to tell their story and raise what they could.

“I’m hopeful of news they have been approved (to come to this country),” John said Monday. He said there is no way of checking on the status of their application.

“We’re patiently, or impatiently waiting,” he said. “It doesn’t feel real yet.”

Ukrainian, Ukraine


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