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From Sea to Shore: Olena’s Journey

Olena, from Ukraine, says that becoming a refugee is like being thrown into the ocean. Keep reading to hear more of her story and how a local church joined our staff to welcome her and her son.  


I’m here because a war started in my country and I had to leave as soon as I possibly could, not taking anything with me. A very scary part of my life but thankfully God has lead me to somewhere safe.  

There is a famous picture of millions of Ukrainians trying to evacuate on trains, and I was there. It was a lot of people, what you see in the picture. But more were staying inside the building. Very scary. You are there and have absolutely no idea when you’ll be able to get on the train and leave to a safer place. You’re fully unaware of the future… 


Becoming a refugee is not easy at all. It’s almost as though life divided into before and after. You start to live a new reality, a whole new world. People may be the same but the situation is different. It feels like someone threw you into the middle of an ocean, and your trying to survive but you can’t. You don’t even see which way the shore is. You don’t know where to swim. Very scary. Thankfully, people help along the way. Then, all of the sudden you’re doing way better than you thought.  


When I arrived to the U.S., World Relief helped me first. I met Tatyana and she let the organization know my story. They basically took me under their wing. They started to help me. I was broke and homeless. No family. No friends. Just me in a wheelchair with my 11-year-old child.

Olena, her son, and staff member Emily O’Connor.

But today, I am working. My home church is Highpoint in Wheaton, and World Relief helped me find a job. I am blessed to have such great co-workers. I never thought I could feel this welcome. When I come into work, it feels like family.  

To those who have supported me, I want to say a huge thank you to all of them. I thank God for each and every one! 

Your support creates change that lasts for refugees and other immigrants in vulnerable situations. Make a difference today for inspiring people like Olena. 

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