Finding a New Home, and New Hope, After Leaving Ukraine

By Victor Abramov
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When war in Ukraine started in late February, Olena Chyianova, 39, a single mother from the region of Odesa, Ukraine, worried for her safety and her two sons, Mykola Chyianov, 13, and Arsenii Chyianov, 11. Ms. Chyianova was especially worried for Arsenii as he has Dandy-Walker Syndrome, a congenital brain malformation that affects his central nervous system.

Olena resolved to bring her family out of harm’s way and made the wrenching decision to leave her home and country. A harrowing journey ensued from Ukraine through Romania, Brussels, Poland, and Germany to Mexico, where the family crossed the border into the U.S. and received humanitarian parole in late March of 2022. Olena chose to resettle in Brooklyn, New York City, home to the largest Ukrainian community in the U.S.

Through the support of the Marks JCH, Olena and her family are managing the difficult process of rebuilding their lives in a foreign country with little to no resources. In April, Marks JCH assisted Mykola in enrolling in a local Brooklyn public school and Ms. Chyianova in applying for Temporary Protected Status. Since then, Marks JCH case managers guided Olena in applying for work authorization, Medicaid, SNAP, and Public Assistance — many are still pending approval and review.

Marks JCH also helped Ms. Chyianova secure housing and through the NYT Neediest Campaign Fund assisted in the first monthly payment ensuring the family could move in as well as funds for food and groceries.

Through a camp scholarship funded by UJA-Federation and J.E. & Z.B. Butler Foundation, Mykola attended the Sunflower Camp with 69 other refugee children, at Marks JCH. This allowed Olena the time and space to care for Arsenii who continues to require around-the-clock care.

Olena’s family is among the many provided relief through the tireless efforts of the Marks JCH. Since the start of the war, the Marks JCH Ukraine Crisis Response Center has welcomed over 2,000 arriving Ukrainian refugees, with increasing new arrivals fleeing the horrors of an escalating war. Marks JCH is providing comprehensive resettlement services including, social service supports, onsite legal clinics and referrals, financial counseling, emergency cash assistance, mental health support, childcare, and more with our many partners and allies in this work, through the generosity of the UJA Federation of NY, J.E. & Z.B. Butler Foundation, Tiger Foundation, Bank Leumi USA, NYS Health Foundation and American Equity CARES. To learn more about the Marks JCH Ukraine relief efforts, recent media features highlighting the services and supports for Ukrainian refugees:

CNN’s Champions For Change: A trio of Ukrainians siblings are using their home and resources to help refugees escape their war-torn country and resettle in the US

Daily News: After fleeing the war in Ukraine, a mother and son get the chance to relax and heal at Brooklyn summer camp

UJA Federation of NY: Turning the Page


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