Family plants roots in the north country after fleeing Ukraine

Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 2:29 PM EDT
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LORRAINE, New York (WWNY) - They watched war out of their window in Ukraine. Now, they are living life in peace in the north country, with the help of a friend, and a few strangers.

Looking out the window of his home in Kherson, Ukraine, Andriy Babych saw smoke, and heard muffled sounds of war.

“A lot of military inside of town, inside of city,” said Andriy.

Now, just outside his window in Lorraine, he sees things he’s never seen before, like the occasional raccoon family that nibbles on his wife’s garden.

Andriy and his wife, Olena, son, Nikita, and daughter-in-law, Slava, fled Ukraine and landed in the north country a few months ago.

Before Andriy left, he made sure to capture images of war. People waiting in long lines to grab the little food that was available.

Now, nearly five-thousand miles away, his family sets the dinner table, and prepares cups of coffee.

They’re here thanks to the United for Ukraine program.

Their friend, Greg Gardner, who he met years ago through a SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton program, and others they had never met before, chipped in to help.

They’ve been loaned a car, and Peter and Kathy Dawson even lent them their summer home, told us their motivation was helping and caring for those in need.

Peter told 7 News, “As the great psychotherapist Karen Hornet once said: There are only three ways people interact with others. One is to move toward others, helping and caring for others in need. That is our approach to the Babych’s and they will be our friends for life.”

“Kathy and Peter didn’t know us before the war started. This is people with big and big hearts. In the Ukraine, we call these people with big heart,” Nikita said.

Here in the United States, Andriy said he’s been able to experience some new things, like mowing the lawn.

Nikita and his family said they’re grateful, calling the north country “heaven” compared to what they left behind.

“We are really happy that we are here. There are no words to describe how thankful we are for all of our friends,” he said.

Gardner has been able to get a gift in return: More time with the Babych’s, and a taste of life in Ukraine.

“This past Wednesday was Ukrainian Independence Day, so they made borscht, and this famous salad that’s a popular celebration salad,” Gardner said. “They’ve reminded us of all of the good experiences and wonderful people that we’ve met in Ukraine.”

Nikita says they still have family in Ukraine, and check in with them every day. And while the north country is home for now, there’s hope one day they’ll make the journey back to the Ukraine they once knew.