Starting over: Ukrainian family fled war, found overwhelming support in Westport
There is nothing more meaningful than having a space of your own. For Olena Ustinova and her family, a home in Westport is a new start on life.
"I'm from Ukraine, from City Center, Kyiv," she tells News 12.
Ustinova says she and her family fled Kyiv last March when they started to hear bombs flying over their neighborhood. With family ties to Westport, they left their life behind them and began their trek to the United States.
From meals on the go to keeping warm, a series of pictures Olena captured on her phone shows the lifestyle they have to adjust to. They walked hours to the Polish border.
News 12's Shosh Bedrosian asked Ustinova's 9-year-old daughter Neva what it was like to walk that far.
"Super cold," she replied.
The family traveled from Kyiv to Lviv to Warsaw, Poland to Mexico City where they eventually crossed the border.
"We were sitting in a detention room, almost two days," explains Ustinova.
But finally, after one month, their restart on life began. They settled in Westport and were immediately supported by people in the community who helped her get clothes and find a place to live. Ustinova says Jewish Family Services of Stamford and the Jewish Federation of Greater Fairfield County helped furnish their entire apartment.
"They help us to buy covers, mattresses, bed sheets," she says.
Her children were even able to celebrate their first Hanukkah in the United States. With the help from both organizations, she was able to give them presents this year. Ustinov says the organizations who lifted her up have inspired her to give back one day.
"I want to help people who are in the same bad situation," she said.