The Russian invasion of Ukraine with began in February this year, sparked a refugee crisis of Ukrainians trying to flee the country. Over 7.8 million have been recorded in Europe since the invasion.
Local organizations in Tallahassee are working to help refugees, like the Kharchenko family, who landed in Tallahassee Monday night after fleeing war-stricken Ukraine.
Denys and his wife Sveta lived in the Donbas region of Ukraine with their three kids Misha, Olya and Anya. They lived less than 4 miles from the frontline of the war against Russian forces. "Weapons, like sounds and alarms across all the city and planes were just flying across and our city was in black," said Denys.
In order to keep his family safe, Denys decided to leave Ukraine and try to find a safe place further west before connecting to local non-profit His Kids Too in an effort to relocate to Tallahassee.
Founder of the group Teressa Fillmon was able to help them travel overseas, fill out paperwork and find housing for them. "They couldn't make that a home. It was just a place to live out of a suitcase so it feels good to be able to bring them to a place that they can call home and start to try to reestablish their lives," said Fillmon.
Denys is grateful for the help in getting his family to a safe place. "We are really thankful for all this stuff for us and so such kind feelings we had when we arrived," said Denys.
Denys is looking forward to getting settled and meeting new people. "It's really important to connect with people who live here and to have some new connections, new acquaintances you know because we don't want to feel uncomfortable here," said Denys
This is something James Barnett, the executive producer of Neighborly, understands. The Neighborly is a nonprofit that works with refugees through the barriers of moving to a new country.
They welcome refugees from the airport, help them go grocery shopping, and are medical advocates to help them get the care they need. But most importantly, they're a support system. "All the programs that would make it as easy as possible for you right especially if you're starting over from nothing, but most of the time what a person really needs at the end of the day is just a friend," said Barnett.
They have around 120 people throughout the city on their Refugee Welcome Party, an alert text system to connect refugees with people in the community. So far, they've welcomed 47 refugees to Tallahassee.
The Kharchenkos are His Kids Too's second family from Ukraine to move to Tallahassee. Fillmon is still looking for enough support to help three more families from Ukraine relocate.