Ukraine mom and son fleeing war find refuge in Holmen

Holmen couple sponsors second Ukraine family opening their home to those escaping war

HOLMEN, Wis. (WKBT) – In total, 265 days have passed since Russia invaded Ukraine. A mom experienced the consequences of this war before finding refuge in Holmen.  One Holmen couple welcomed her family into their own.

People hear a sound and then they see. The breath from mother nature signals the season’s change.

“Really it’s wonderful,” said Tetiana Lukash, who traveled from Ukraine to the U.S. about a month ago. “I’m a person who always wants to feel free.”

Lukash loves the outdoors.

“We had a good life you know,” said Lukash as she described her family’s life back home.

This winter is her first winter season in the United States.

“To be able to sit on the deck and listen to the breeze, listen to the birds and not hear pain and death,” said Gary Coryell, Lukash’s sponsor.

Ukraine was Lukash’s home. Now it’s a memory.

“It’s like, very scary,” Lukash said. “I have friends and relatives who lost everything in one second.”

Russia has targeted Lukash’s hometown Kharkiv.

With Winter coming, much of the country has no heat there’s no electricity.

Gary Coryell and his wife Ann Runstrom open their door.

“All that matters is love and relationships,” Runstrom said. “Everything else is insignificant.”

Their door provides a safe place for Lukash and her son Deniil to escape.

“It helps a lot,” Lukash said. “People are amazing.”

Lukash’s son goes to Melrose Mindoro High School, but her husband and her other son remained trapped in Ukraine.

“People cannot leave because it’s war,” Lukash said.

All Lukash can do — is wait.

“She hasn’t seen her husband since March,” Coryell said.

“Yeah. We’re trying to smile, you know,” Lukash said.

Coryell grew up in foster homes. If anyone understands the idea of leaving home, it’s Coryell.

“I had a rough upbringing,” Coryell said. “Went to 13 different schools.”

He also knows what it’s like to go to war.

“There’s evil in the world,” Coryell said. “I’ve seen evil in the world. I’m a veteran.”

Tetiana and her son Daniil are the second family Coryell and Runstrom have sponsored. Iryna and Olha were the first.

“Wonderful people,” Coryell said. “Love them to death.”

Under Coryell and Runstrom’s roof, no one is a stranger.

“It’s much more than I could have imagined,” Lukash said.

It’s as if they were already connected before.

“They’re not where they are because they didn’t try,” Runstrom said. “They’re where they are sometimes because they had bad luck.”

Hope derived after Coryell and Ronstrum heard of people who needed their help.

“When good people do nothing evil will always win,” Coryell said.

Now a person can see the lives a family’s love can save.

“You kinda feel like we are brothers,” Lukash said.

Coryell and Runstrom connected with Tetiana’s family through The Department of Homeland Security program “Uniting for Ukraine”. 

How to apply – U.S. Department of Homeland Security 

Uniting for Ukraine provides a pathway for displaced Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members who are outside the United States to come to the United States and stay temporarily for up to two years. Ukrainians participating in Uniting for Ukraine must have a supporter in the United States who agrees to provide them with financial support for the duration of their stay in the United States.

The first step in the Uniting for Ukraine process is for the U.S.-based supporter to file a Form I-134, Declaration of Financial Support, with USCIS. The supporter will then be vetted by the U.S. government to protect against exploitation and abuse, and ensure that they are able to financially support the individual(s) whom they agree to support.

Ukrainians who present at U.S. land ports of entry without a valid visa or without pre-authorization to travel to the United States through Uniting for Ukraine may be denied entry and referred to apply through this program.