Two Ukrainian refugees who resettled in the Chicago area readjust to life more than 5,000 miles from home, while missing the husband and father who make their family feel complete.
Olha Moroz and her 16-year-old son, Arsenii, are building a new life in the United States, eight months after the start of war in their home country of Ukraine.
The life they fled to Ukraine was successful and filled with happiness. Now they face an uncertain future as they remain estranged from Sergeii Moroz, a surgeon who stayed behind to help with the war effort.
“It’s far but we are very close in spirit,” Olha Moroz said through an interpreter.
She and Sergeii have been together for 26 years. Arsenii and Olha left Ukraine after the war began, despite hopes and prayers that Russia would back down from a possible invasion.
“Until the last minute, we really thought it would be resolved diplomatically,” Olha said.
Living in Kyiv when the war started, Arsenii said he woke up at 5 a.m. to the sound of bombs exploding and planes flying low in the sky. The following week became a struggle for survival, with constant worry about how to escape.
“I didn’t believe anything that was happening,” said Arsenii, who was a competitive dancer, actor and TV presenter in Ukraine.
They spent several nights hiding in bunkers. They lined up in banks and supermarkets. Within days, as the war escalated, they knew they had to flee their home.
Olha said it was illegal for Sergei to leave Ukraine, as the country needs all qualified men of working age to help with the war effort, so they said their goodbyes. Olha drove through Europe, with her son and her mother.
“In eight days we visited nine countries, we went around Europe, me, my mother and my grandmother,” Arsenii said.
They first settled in Spain, with a family that welcomed them. After three months in Spain, Arsenii and Olha find a sponsor who will offer them accommodation in the United States. They worked with the organization Refugee One, which helped them process their paperwork within days, and got them on a plane to Poland.
They are now among tens of thousands of refugees living in the United States.
Both Olha and Arsenii said they miss Sergeii terribly and are worried about his safety. They talk every day on Facetime.
“It’s the first time we’ve had birthdays without him. [with us]Olha said.[It’s the] first time we’ve had to do a lot without him here.”
Olha and Arsenii now live in a northwest suburb of Chicago. Olha said she was able to start designing clothes again, and Arsenii dances competitively in the United States, traveling around the country.
“I will say it’s very true that the United States is the land of opportunity,” Arsenii said.
Olha hopes and prays for the whole family to be reunited. She says that if given the chance, they will try to create a new life in the United States.
“I’m very grateful to the people who have helped us here,” Olha said.