After more than a year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, families displaced by the war are still struggling with many challenges. One challenge is finding a more permanent place to live.
"I decided to just move to [the] airport and move far from the sides, like Ukraine and Russia, I wanted to be not there," said Yana Lande.
More than 250,000 Ukrainians have been admitted into the U.S. since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Many come with few belongings, no credit history, and few connections, if any. This is why many have chosen places like New York City, where there is a community of Ukrainians to connect with.
"It was very hard to find [an] apartment, because I don’t have credit history here," Maria Oliynyk said.
She came to the country in August 2022. She had the added challenge of finding a place where she could raise her 1-year-old daughter.
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"When you come only with one backpack and start life from zero after you're more than 30, it's very stressful. It's [a] big change," said Lande.
Lande moved here days after the invasion began in Ukraine.
This is why many Ukrainians looking to establish their lives in the United States turned to organizations for help. After seeing the need and difficulty many were facing, sisters Gabriella and Lidiya Oros decided to give back.
"We arrived here 23 years ago as immigrants from Ukraine," Gabrielle Oros said.
The sisters, who work as real estate agents, co-founded the non-profit Ukrainian Habitat Fund a year ago in New York City. They help with other things, not just housing, and provide displaced families with items like towels, forks, you name it.
"We stepped in to act as lease holders and guarantors on their behalf and we still do and continue to do so," Gabriella said.
Their funds come from donations and fundraisers. They are not grant-funded and everyone who helps out in the organization is a volunteer.
"In terms of taking on the leases under our fund's name, we have housed over 35 individuals," Gabriella said. "We also provide guarantee, so there’s families that are able to obtain their own leases but they need a bit of that legal support coming in, so we, as a fund, stepped in to give that landlord reassurance."
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For people like Lande and her son who came here shortly after her, it makes all the difference.
"Now I have rent. It's for one year and it's like, oh my god, I have stability in my life and it's really helped me even to make a plan for my future, because if you don't know what is tomorrow, you can't make a plan," she said.
Fighting continues between Russia and Ukraine. Families who chose to leave for another country have no idea if or when they will go back.
"Those who are displaced, they have big stress. It's a big trauma," Oliynyk said.
"There's a lot of families that, unfortunately, can't go back because they have nowhere to go back to," Lidiya Oros said. "We're not even near the end, there's still a great amount of work that needs to be done."
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