Two Ukrainian refugees who have resettled in the Chicago area are re-adjusting to life more than 5,000 miles from home, all while missing the husband and father who makes their family feel complete.
Olha Moroz and her 16-year-old son, Arsenii, are building a new life in the United States, eight months after the war in their home country of Ukraine began.
The life they fled in Ukraine was successful and filled with happiness. Now, they face an uncertain future as they remain separated from Sergeii Moroz, a surgeon who stayed behind to help with the war effort.
"It’s far in distance but we’re very close in spirit," Olha Moroz said through a translator.
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She and Sergeii have been together for 26 years. Arsenii and Olha left Ukraine after the war started, despite hoping and praying that Russia would back down from a possible invasion.
"Right up until the last minute, we truly believed it would be solved diplomatically," said Olha.
Living in Kyiv when the war started, Arsenii said he awoke at 5 a.m. to the sound of bombs exploding and planes flying low in the sky. The next week became a struggle to survive, with constant worry about how to escape.
"I was not believing anything that was happening," said Arsenii, who was a competitive dancer, actor and TV presenter in Ukraine.
They spent several nights hiding in bunkers. They waited in long lines at banks and supermarkets. Within days, as the war got worse, they knew they had to flee their home.
Olha said it is illegal for Sergeii to leave Ukraine, as the country needs all skilled men of working age to help in the war effort, and so they said their goodbyes. Olha drove across Europe, with her son and mother.
"In eight days we visited nine countries, we went all around Europe, me, my mom and my grandma," said Arsenii.
They first settled in Spain, with a family that took them in. After three months in Spain, Arsenii and Olha found a sponsor who would offer them a place to stay in the United States. They worked with the organization Refugee One, which welcomed them to Chicago and helped process their paperwork.
They are now one of tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who now live in the United States.
Both Olha and Arsenii said they miss Sergeii terribly and worry about his safety. They talk every day on Facetime.
"This is the first time we’ve had birthdays without him [with us]," said Olha. "[It's the] first time that we’ve had to do a lot of things without him here."
Olha and Arsenii now live in a northwest suburb of Chicago. Olha said she has been able to start designing clothes again, and Arsenii is dancing competitively in the United States, traveling across the country.
"I will say it’s very true that the U.S. is the country of opportunities," said Arsenii.
Olha hopes and prays the whole family will be reunited. She says that if given the chance, they will try to create a new life in the United States.
"I’m so very thankful to the people who have helped us here," said Olha.