CODY, WYOMING - A Cody family is resettling Ukrainian refugees through the U.S. State Department’s "United For Ukraine" program.
It’s been almost a year since Russia invaded Ukraine, sending millions fleeing for safety.
Ten new families now call Cody home, with two more expected to arrive soon. Only women and minors were able to come due to military restrictions for men of a certain age in Ukraine.
Glen Livingston Elementary School in Cody has several of the kids in their care. They are learning English, and much more.
Dasha is in kindergarten, and Rusa is in first grade. They started at Livingston Elementary in the fall.
“We do have an ESL person for our district and she’s been working closely with the girls,” said Kambrie Simmons, the school counselor.
She said overcoming the language barrier is the main challenge for the girls, and the school. “We used Google Translate at first,” she said.
In spite of the challenges, the girls have assimilated into their new American life. “They really, really connected well with the therapy dog we have at school. and that helped them feel really comfortable,” Simmons said.
The Ukrainian families are sponsored by Nick and Yulia Piazza. Nick is from Cody, and split his career and life between Ukraine. He married Yulia, who is from the capital city of Kiev. They now have two children.
Yulia Piazza says she is learning to cope with the daily stress of worrying about her family overseas, but that she’s learning to cope.
She helped families get settled upon arrival. “They don’t know anybody here, so we try to be supportive. We try to explain everything, we try to give them some tips….I just want to be helpful for them,” Yulia Piazza said.
Their son Misha is fluent in Ukrainian. He is in third grade at Livingston Elementary and helped translate for the younger girls initially.
He says he was the best option. “Because I was the only really option that was a good one, and if I said no I would just feel bad about it later, so I didn’t want to feel bad about it later, so I decided to say that I could help,” Misha said.
Simmons said Dasha and Rusa have picked up English quickly and haven’t had social issues at school, which is something school leaders were concerned about.
“The kids at school don’t really care where they come from, or they don’t really care about the language barrier too much. I think kindergarten and first grade is just the perfect age because kids at those ages are just so loving anyway,” said Simmons.
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If you want to help:
- Nova Ukraine: A Ukrainian NGO that provides humanitarian aid from food, to hygiene products, to clothing to people in need throughout Ukraine. https://novaukraine.org
- Ukrainian Red Cross: They provide humanitarian work around Ukraine including providing food and supplies to people, handling and coordinating blood donations, providing medical support to remote areas and displaced people. https://redcross.org.ua/en/donate/
- UNICEF: They are providing emergency response for children and work on rebuilding schools. https://www.unicef.org/ukraine/en/donate-now [unicef.org]