Ukrainian family experiences first Thanksgiving after fleeing war-torn country

WILMINGTON — It will be a taste of home on Thanksgiving as rice, meat and vegetables are rolled into sheets for a traditional Ukrainian meal, and a taste of a new home in the United States that experiments with cranberry sauce for the first time. “In Ukraine, I only hear about Thanksgiving Day. I say ‘hmmmm’ interesting,” Tanya Bondar said.

Along with her two children, she arrived with her family in Wilmington from Ukraine in March. They are now beginning to understand American Thanksgiving after spending months learning to get by in a new place far from their war-torn country.

“I can say that I lost everything. I lost my life in Ukraine,” Bondar said.

Here, her two-year-old son Teesha is finally communicating and 13-year-old Timothy is at school, though both are in therapy to cope with PTSD.

“You don’t know the language, you don’t understand anything, you don’t have any friends,” Bondar said. “For him, it was very, very stressful.”

The family fled the capital Kyiv when the shelling began, spending three weeks in Poland organizing documentation before arriving at the home of sister-in-law Elena Cannata. It wasn’t until June that the family reunited with Tanya’s husband, Slavic, and with the help of the community, they found housing and social services.

The family wants to pay it forward after so much support to welcome loved ones into the community. A fund has been created to directly help women and children in Ukraine.

“Mothers and children are specifically struggling to survive there, they can’t leave, they don’t have money and they’ve lost everything,” Elena Cannata said.

Giving thanks has a whole new meaning for this family. “I know what it’s like for them, but the day after tomorrow will be their favorite holiday,” Cannata said.

Although there is still uncertainty as to where the house will eventually be.


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