“My mom was so grateful. Even for the littlest things, she would say, ‘Thank you God!’ She would appreciate everything.”
Anzhella (she goes by Angela here in the United States because people often have trouble pronouncing her given name correctly) came to the US when she was six years old. In addition to a twin sister, her parents had three more children at the time, and her mom was pregnant with her second pair of twins. After their arrival and before World Relief set them up with housing, they all lived at her grandparents’ house, along with a variety of other relatives who had arrived in the US.
“One huge family at my grandma’s house.” Her overwhelming memory of that time, however, is not chaos, but joy.
“When we got here in 2000, my parents were the happiest people in the world. There was a huge group of people at the airport to greet us. We could go to school, have religious freedom, and opportunities. My parents were excited to make that happen for us because there wasn’t much future for us in Ukraine.”
Angela and her family came from the Ukraine through the Lautenberg Program, a special program created in 1990 to allow family members currently in the US to bring their relatives from the former Soviet Union to resettle in the US as refugees. The program, which focuses on freedom from religious persecution, is still in effect today. It closes every year on September 30 and must be re-approved on an annual basis.
Angela said her family arrived with very little. “World Relief gave us furniture and clothing. Clothing was huge for us because we didn’t have the right clothes for the season when we arrived. They set us up with housing and connected us to Habitat for Humanity so that we could build our first house in the US; a place we can truly call home.”
A New Community
Perhaps the biggest gift, however, was that World Relief connected Angela’s family with a case manager, Alla Derevenchuk, who in turn connected Angela’s family with a school Support Specialist, Sandi Solverson, who became a lifelong friend. “It was a perfect match.” Like Angela and her two little brothers, Sandi was also a twin and connected quickly with the family. Angela’s mom was so grateful to have someone she could call to help navigate life in this country. Sandi would notice what the family lacked, and she would help them acquire those things by connecting them with available resources. “She always set us up with resources like the Christmas Bureau, back-to-school supplies, vouchers for shoes, and so much more! We still keep in touch.” Sandy came to her sisters’ weddings among other events. “She was someone my mom trusted, and that gave her peace of mind during the chaos of resettlement.
“My parents’ goal was to work hard and make a better life for us; so that we had the opportunity to get an education and good jobs instead of ‘toiling in the sun’ the way they did.” Her parents both worked and went to school to learn English. After about five years, her father, who is an entrepreneur, started his own trucking company. “When the market crashed and the business closed, he didn’t give up there. He opened up an adult family home which has been running for 12 years now.”
Joining the Team
After getting her Bachelor’s degree in social work, Angela came to work for World Relief. As the Initial Healthcare Coordinator, she makes certain that new arrivals are set up with health insurance. She navigates the Washington Health Plan Finder for health insurance, secures a State ID card for each person and coordinates refugee health screenings. For pregnant women and moms with young children, she makes sure they get set up with WIC. And for elderly patients, she helps them apply for SSI.
“I didn’t know how hard it can be to coordinate so many different areas of a person’s life.”
Angela does all of her work behind the scenes before a family arrives – reading their medical records, researching their needs, and coordinating with healthcare providers for a smooth transition into the US healthcare system. “I want to be prepared ahead of time so that families receive the care they desperately need right away.”
Angela said one of her favorite Bible verses is Matthew 7:12, the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“When I meet new immigrants and refugees, I want to give them everything I can so they can succeed.”
When I asked Angela what made her want to do this work, she referred again to her mom: “I remember hearing how thankful my mom was for all the resources. We wouldn’t have been able to get to where we are today without those, and that’s why I wanted to help others. Nothing makes me happier. My mom had that happiness when she helped other people who came here after us, and my dad when he gave driving lessons to newcomers. Being able to give instead of just receiving brought us great joy.”
Family is still a binding force in Angela’s life. “Nobody in our family is going to forsake one another. We’ll always be there for each other.”
In fact, every Sunday, they gather together. It used to be at her grandma’s house, and now, Sunday dinner is at her mom’s house. Stuffed peppers, garbanzo bean soup and plachinte, a cottage cheese pastry, are just a few of the favorites. Here’s a recipe for you to try from Angela’s family.
Garbanzo Bean Soup
1 cup Garbanzo Beans (also known as chickpeas)
3 cups of homemade chicken broth
1 onion (chopped into cubes)
1-2 tablespoons cooking oil
1/4 teaspoon of crushed chipotle pepper (or less)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of dried dill
- Soak 1 cup garbanzo beans in 3 cups of lukewarm water overnight. Before cooking, throw away the water from the garbanzo beans.
- Add garbanzo beans to room temperature chicken broth. Bring to a boil. (The temperature of the chicken broth should be room temperature to avoid hardening of the beans.) Once it begins to boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours (until tender).
- While beans are simmering, chop 1 large onion into cubes. Add 2 tablespoons of oil into a frying pan and sauté the onion on medium-low heat. If desired, add 2-3 cloves of minced garlic. Once onion is almost ready, add 1-2 teaspoons of Smoked Paprika (or regular paprika if you don’t have smoked) and 1/4 teaspoon of crushed chipotle pepper (or just a pinch for flavor) and sauté for another minute or until onions are a golden color.
- Once the beans are tender and ready, add the sautéed onions, 1 teaspoon of dill , and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the chicken broth and beans (you may add more as desired, but it will not taste good if it’s too salty)
- Bring to a boil and then turn it off, mix altogether and ENJOY!
You can learn more about World Relief and the work we do by clicking here.