Ukrainian Family Celebrates Thanksgiving for First Time in the United States

The Chekhotskyi family arrived in the Chicago area in July 2022. They're now being legally sponsored by the Mohrman family in Plainfield and will be celebrating Thanksgiving together for the first time

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This Thanksgiving, some Ukranian families in the Chicago area will be celebrating the cherished American tradition for the first time, as they start a new life in the United States.

The Chekhotskyi family is one of them. They arrived in Chicago back in July after leaving everything behind in their hometown of Chornomorsk, in the Odessa region of Ukraine.

"We heard some explosions everywhere, we opened the window, we saw when the war began and at this moment we decide to move to save our children," said 40-year-old Alla Chekhotska, who escaped with her husband Oleksander, and their two sons, 13-year-old Yaroslav and 8-year-old Mark.

The family says they packed what they could in their car and traveled for five days to reach the Czech Republic, where they stayed with Alla's brother in Prague for a few months. But their goal, was always to end up in the United States.

"America was my dream from my childhood," said Alla.

Through a mutual connection, they met Sheri and Christopher Mohrman from Plainfield, Illinois. After a few online exchanges, the Mohrman's took a leap of faith and decided to begin the process to legally sponsor the family through the "Uniting for Ukraine" program. It's a program through the Department of Homeland Security, that offers a safe and orderly pathway for displaced Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members. Specifically, for those who are outside the United States to come to the country and stay temporarily for a two-year period of parole, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Mohrman's say it's a decision they didn't take lightly, especially since they already share five children. But they felt compelled to help in some way, after becoming empty nesters. Seeing the disturbing images out of Ukraine in the midst of a war motivated them to take action.

"We take it for granted here in the U.S… We are not worried about bombs falling on us, we are not worried about having no water, no heat, living in a house in the dark, freezing and then trying to find food," said Christopher Mohrman. "It's a horrible situation."

"We needed to do something and so it was at that point Chris and I had a very long conversation and we decided to go ahead and take the leap of faith," said Sherri Mohrman.

That leap of faith, helped the Chekhotskyi family achieve their dream of moving to the United States. Their transition hasn't been easy, due to the language and culture barrier. But this Thanksgiving, they're so grateful to be safe, in a new home and with their new family.

"I appreciate Sherri and Christopher to invited to be here. I appreciate the opportunity to live in USA now to be safe," said Alla.

To celebrate, both families will be sharing a Thanksgiving dinner for the first time in their home in Plainfield. The dinner will include American staple dishes and even Ukrainian dishes to honor their blend of cultures.

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