CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A Thanksgiving celebration that unites two cultures. Coastal Church Chesapeake hosted an American-Ukrainian Thanksgiving dinner Tuesday, welcoming those fleeing the Russian invasion.
More than 100 refugees attended and were provided with resources to help them get by during their time here in Hampton Roads.
“We are trying to make them feel like they are home,” said Maryna Jarrett of the Tidewater Ukrainian Cultural Assocation.
Jarrett along with Coastal Church and Orphan’s Promise helped organize Tuesday’s dinner and food giveaway for Ukrainian refugees.
“They came here, they left everything. All their belongings, everything is home,” Jarrett stated.
Those who came out got a traditional American Thanksgiving meal with Ukrainian desserts and a full Thanksgiving meal to take home and prepare themselves.
The Tidewater region showed support for Ukraine with local businesses stepping up to provide healthcare services for those sheltering in Hampton Roads — refugees like Olena Eylypemko and her 11-year-old son Seva.
“Right now we’re here almost three months and we’re all praying for Ukraine,” Eylypemko told 10 On Your Side.
Eylypemko says Seva’s father, grandmother and her father are still in Ukraine. Her biggest fear is the coming winter, where temperatures typically dip to -35 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The situation in Ukraine is becoming worse and worse. Right now they have no electricity, they have no heat, they have no food. I can’t believe it’s true. It’s the 21st century,” Eylypemko explained.
Eylypemko tells us it took months for her, her son and their 2-year-old chocolate lab to leave their country and credits the generosity of complete strangers helping her family find refuge in America.
“I am really happy that we are here now, thanks to all of, I appreciate, I am grateful for all people who have helped me during this trip. They gave me everything. They gave me clothes, they gave me food, they gave me housing,” Eylypemko said.
Eylypemko still keeps in touch with family and friends back home, praying for the day when they’ll no longer have to worry for their safety.
“We all believe, we all pray for them, we’re all doing our best with what we can do in this situation. We should be strong,” Eylypemko concluded.