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From Ukraine to the United States: Bohdan’s Story

On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, plunging the nation into violent conflict. This act of war highlights how violence places innocent lives in danger, and we continue to pray for all those affected. In the last 18 years, World Relief has resettled over 13,000 refugees from Ukraine. Many, like Bohdan Borodin, have joined our staff, and we serve together daily. 

Bohdan came to the U.S. with his family in 2019 through the Lautenberg program and now works as an Employment Specialist at World Relief Upstate. Today, Bohdan offers his perspective on life in Ukraine, the transition to the United States after suffering from religious persecution and hope for a better life for his family.

We are grateful to Bohdan for sharing his story today.

I love my country. Before I came to the U.S., life in the Ukraine wasn’t all bad. Ukraine is a good country, actually. It’s beautiful with so many different landscapes: from flatlands to mountains and lakes. 

I miss the community and routines of daily life, including family dinners every Sunday. It was a big event, all of us coming together and talking with one another over a meal. I also received a good education in Ukraine, earning a Master’s Degree in Thermal Engineering. 

But while it sounds like a degree that can secure a good job, it was not so easy to provide for basic needs for my family or plan well for our future. 

In 1991 Ukraine was liberated from the USSR and established as a democratic government. Since then, a lot of good changes have happened, but the economy has remained challenging: the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.  

Our culture is also still sprinkled with communism-bias in every city and village. When Ukraine was part of the USSR, Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party from 1953-1964, announced on TV that he would try to kill the last Christian to destroy the faith of all Christians. Thankfully, this threat never became a reality. Instead, persecution now is much more subtle, with undertones of dislike and prejudice. 

For example, as a student, if you have a teacher who remembers the former Soviet way of life and has upheld those beliefs, he or she may give you bad grades just to show their disapproval of Christianity.

It is for that reason that my wife, Inna, and I decided to apply for refugee status and come to the U.S. for a better way of life. 

It took about three years from the start of the application process to the point that we resettled in South Carolina. When we were finally approved to come to the U.S., we were excited, but I also knew that entering a different culture and language would be difficult. In fact, our challenges first began before we ever left Ukraine. 

We were waiting at the airport standing outside in the middle of winter with our two-year-old daughter. We made it from Ukraine all the way to New York. But then our flight from New York to Greenville was delayed twice and eventually canceled. We were exhausted! 

We finally arrived in South Carolina with only a couple hundred dollars in our pockets since we had no property to sell in Ukraine. Also, my wife does not speak English, which was an additional challenge for her. And shortly after we arrived, my mother-in-law came to live with us. All of this change created a very stressful time! 

I had studied English back in Ukraine, which gave me a huge advantage compared to other Ukrainians with no English. While I wanted to remain as self-sufficient as possible, we still had a lot of needs as we navigated setting up our life in a new country. 

Thankfully, when I did need help and guidance, World Relief workers stepped in to help with things like filling out papers and documents, securing a place to live and getting a job so I could provide for my family. 

When World Relief saw how good my English was, they offered me a job working as an Employment Specialist. At first, I was unsure if this would be a good fit because my previous experience was working in technical fields, but then I thought this might be a good opportunity for me to learn something new. 

I like engaging my brain and helping others, and working at World Relief lets me do both! Working at World Relief has also helped me gain more global awareness about refugees coming from countries who have even greater challenges to overcome than I have. I am grateful for that.

Most of my family still lives in Ukraine. Recently, we were able to visit, and it was a good time for my mom to give a hug to her grandkids and meet my eight-month-old son in person, instead of over the phone. 

Since most of my relatives are still over there, the recent events between Russia against Ukraine have been frustrating and upsetting. 

I would ask Russian people not to believe in Putin’s lie to his nation. I also believe that there are many Russians who don’t want this war either. My hope is that they would continue coming out on the streets, sharing their opinions through protests. 

I also hope the American government will find or create a way to bring immediate family members from Ukraine to the U.S. Despite this ongoing tragedy in my home country, I am grateful to be in America and give my kids the opportunity to live the American dream. I want to give them the best life that I can – to receive a good education, become self-sufficient and achieve success in this life.

World Relief is providing life-sustaining relief through our network of partners on the ground in Western Ukraine, Slovakia and Romania. Your gift today will provide things like food, temporary shelter, blankets, hygiene items, medicine and other essential items to those displaced by the war. Whether we’re responding to war in Ukraine, drought in Kenya or flooding in South Sudan, our faith compels us to respond.

Bohdan Borodin grew up in Ukraine, and resettled in the U.S. in 2019. He has a wife and two children. Together, they live in South Carolina where he works as an Employment Specialist at World Relief Upstate

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