PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — There was an outpouring of love and support for 27 Ukrainian refugee families in Southeast Portland on Sunday as they celebrated Eastern Orthodox Christmas.
The 60 Ukrainian children who lost everything in the war Russia started smiled broadly as they experienced American generosity on their favorite holiday at the Ukrainian Bible Church.
“We are here. Everything is new for us in this country,” said Andrii Havronskyi. “Where I was, all the Americans accept. So we are thankful to you because of your help.”
Havronskyi said he and his family were welcomed with open arms since they escaped their home country and arrived in Portland a few months ago. He’s working and supporting his family but the Christmas holiday has been especially tough for these families.
“It’s really difficult. My wife (is) from a family of 9. (Christmas is) always a family holiday,” he said. “But this year we don’t have family at all. So there is a lot of sadness.”
Vitaliy Bozhdugqa, one of the missionary pastors at the church, said generous community donations provided gifts to all 60 Ukrainian children that helped overcome some of that sadness.
Clackamas County police and firefighters helped distribute the gifts, adding to the excitement the kids felt.
“We’re happy. This is the least we can do,” the pastor said. “I put myself in their shoes. These are the families that lost everything, came here, have nobody here. If this is the season of joy, careness and giving, they are kind of left out. This is the smallest thing we can do to make sure they know someone cares about them.”
Havronskyi said he knows firsthand how much Americans care about his family and friends because his job takes him into homes everyday.
“In a lot of houses I saw Ukrainian flags,” he told KOIN 6 News. “You stand with us, you Americans stand with us and we are so grateful to God because of you.”