WHITEFISH - Six months ago we introduced you to a refugee family from Ukraine relocating across the world, to their new home in Flathead County.
Yurii, his wife Vitalina and their 3-year-old daughter Anastasia have now settled in Whitefish, after fleeing their home in Kharkiv to protect their daughter’s future.
Now more than one year into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Zinchenko family reflects on the devastations of war, discusses their new life in Montana and shares exciting news about their future.
In just six short months the Zinchenko family has found peace in Whitefish.
“I think that each week we have some new fun, some new experience,” said Yurii Zinchenko.
Yurii and his wife Vitalina are taking courses at Flathead Valley Community College, while 3-year-old Anastasia attends preschool.
“She really likes to go there, and she picks up everything in English just each day, right now when you communicate with her, I think she understands everything, maybe she can’t speak fluently, but she understands everything," said Yurii.
WATCH: Yurii Zinchenko discussing wisdom his family has learned from fellow Montanans
Anastasia is having fun taking ballet lessons and meeting new friends.
“I don’t know who is more happier, she or we like parents because now we see that she still continues like a train, so once again she’s starting to move, just taking the speed up, and she’s moving forward, step by step," Yurii observed.
It is a stark contrast from Anastasia’s life one year ago, and the home they left behind in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
“Without bombs, and without sirens here, my child she’s safe is for me the best,” said Vitalina.
Vitalina stays in contact with her family and friends still in Ukraine every day, as the nation continues to fight for their lives and freedom.
“I wake up early and I try and call them or send message and ask 'how are you doing guys? I love you.' For me it’s still hard,” added Vitalina.
“It’s very difficult not to be discouraged and not be in a bad mode, but we’re trying, we’re moving forward,” said Yurii.
Vitalina said she often dreams about the life they left behind in Ukraine, the life they earned and worked for.
“I’m trying smiling, I’m trying studying, but inside I feel," said Vitalina.
The Zinchenko’s are now building that life in Montana one day at a time.
“My goal was to not just help them survive but to thrive in our community and they really are,” said Mountain Haven Sponsorship Circle board member Patsy Vargo.
Vargo is part of the sponsorship group that helped bring the Zinchenko family to Whitefish.
WATCH: Mountain Haven Sponsorship Circle board member Patsy Vargo discusses the Zinchenko family
“I’ve seen huge growth and adaptation, our goal as a sponsor circle was to get them integrated and empowered into America and into our community and it really has happened,” said Vargo.
Vitalina is currently taking prerequisite classes to earn her nursing degree, while Yurii’s been accepted into a Masters Law program at the University of California Irvine, starting in August.
“It’s a Master's Degree for lawyers and attorneys that already have some legal practice and experience and education in another country, and they can go study for just a one-year program and then have opportunity to take bar exam,” said Yurii.
Before they move to California, the Zinchenko family has a special surprise to share — Anastasia will soon have a little brother.
“We arrived with one child, and we’re expecting for another one! So at the end of July, we will have a new Montana baby,” said Yurii.
“He will be born in Montana, and I always dreamed to have daughter and a son, I think it’s perfect to have different child, so I’m very excited,” added Vitalina.
Yurii is thankful for the generosity of the Montanan’s who are helping his family start a new life.
“So, god or destiny gave us a great chance to start a new life in a new country, and we should move forward, we have no chance to go back, just forward, so we’re doing our best to find our path in this beautiful country.”
Those who would like to support the Zinchenko family as they further their education in America are asked to email Patsy Vargo at firstname.lastname@example.org.