Family relives Ukraine invasion

PHOTO: Alex holds photos of his grandmother, father and grandfather, who all survived the Holocaust, though many members of his grandfather’s family perished. Now another war has uprooted his family. They arrived in Portland early this year.

A year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, millions of refugees have fled from Ukraine across borders into neighboring countries, the largest refugee exodus in Europe since World War II. 
More than 115,000 Ukrainians have arrived in the United States under a sponsorship program launched by the Biden administration two months after the invasion began Feb. 24, 2022.
In a Feb. 20 interview, a family of four Ukrainians now in Portland shared stories and photos of their life and home in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and how it abruptly changed with the invasion. Bombs began falling on Kharkiv on the first day of the war, and Russian troops entered the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, on Feb. 27, 2022.
Eduard and his wife, Daria, and his parents, Mila and Alex, arrived in Portland Jan. 28, 2023, as part of the HIAS Sponsor Circle program that has brought 211 Ukrainians to the U.S.; another 59 are “in the pipeline.” The family is sponsored by a Welcome Circle at Congregation Neveh Shalom. The Congregation Shir Tikvah Welcome Circle expects to resettle another new arrival soon. Funding for the local Welcome Circles is provided by the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s Ukraine campaign (, which has raised $150,000 to assit those who come to Portland with rent, utilities, food and other expenses.  
Daria has written the family’s story (in English), illustrated by photos of their homes and city before and after the invasion. Sharing the presentation, she tearfully compares photos of the school she attended as a child and pictures of it days after the invasion. Pictures of the beautiful park near their homes contrast with images in the same area days later. You can see her story and photos at
Next to a photo of bombs exploding just a few blocks away, Daria writes: “How they did not want to believe that at 4:50 in the morning on February 24 an explosion would wake us up and the first thought was that no, this could not be. But after a few seconds, you will understand that you no longer just hear these explosions, but you see how the battle is going on with your own eyes.”
Alex pulled up one of the images on his phone and pointed to his home. The photo shows his bombed apartment building, and he anxiously pointed out his home with holes in the walls of the apartments one floor above and one floor below from shells that hit the building.
Daria goes on to describe the fighting and explosions they could see over the next few days. The family fled and moved into the small house of Daria’s grandparents – “we gathered 12 people and nine cats.”
Eduard speaks about the family’s harrowing drive to western Ukraine, a normally short drive that took three days. They fled over the western border into Poland, where they stayed in a Warsaw JCC for several months. Thanks to HIAS and the generous sponsorship by Neveh Shalom, they were able to come to Portland.
The story of how the Welcome Circle is helping them start a new life here will be in the March 15 issue of the Jewish Review.
For more information about the role and impact Jewish Federations across North America, including Portland, have made on the lives of so many in Ukraine and those who fled, visit The Greater Portland community has raised more than $600,000 to support those in Ukraine and refugees who have come/are coming to Portland. 



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