A war 1,000 miles away still affects refugee

Ukrainian refugee reflects on adjusting to life in Sea Cliff

A year in exile from Ukraine


It can be easy to think the North Shore of Long Island exists in a bubble, but even here the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are being felt.

Anna, a Ukrainian refugee, has been living in Sea Cliff with her children Polina, 14, and Yegor, 12, for over a year now, and says although the war is thousands of miles away, it still affects her and her family daily.

Originally from Kherson, a Ukrainian city on the Black Sea, Anna and her children fled their home during the invasion, eventually making their way to Long Island following a harrowing drive through Ukraine to Hungary. Anna’s parents are still in the country, as is her husband Dmitry, as he is of military age.

Anna’s journey from Ukraine to Sea Cliff has been marked by challenges, resilience, and the unwavering support of her newfound community. One of her biggest challenges is the language barrier, and although she has made progress and is taking English language classes communication remains a challenge, a reminder she is not truly home.

“To be candid, I haven’t completely overcome this obstacle even now,” Anna wrote in a statement. “My motivation stems from the belief that improving my language skills will open doors to better job opportunities.”

Sea Cliff has played a pivotal role in Anna’s path to safety and stability, she wrote, adding that the generosity of local families who welcomed her and her children with open arms has been nothing short of extraordinary.

Another significant challenge for Anna has been ensuring the emotional well-being of her children, who are navigating the difficult process of adapting to a new life while coping with the trauma of separation from their hometown, father, and friends.

Anna highlighted the critical role the North Shore Middle and High schools play in helping her look after her children and help them heal. She added that the teachers’ friendliness and care have made a positive impact on her children, and she is grateful for the welcoming environment they provide.

“The school not only assists them with English language acquisition and school supplies but, more importantly, offers emotional support,” Anna wrote. “I can see that my children genuinely enjoy going to school each day, and that means the world to me.”

Her involvement in Our Lady of Kazan Church as a parishioner and volunteer has been instrumental in helping her maintain a sense of self and contribute to the community. It provides her with meaningful opportunities to engage with her fellow parishioners and help those in need, such as organizing free English classes for newly arrived Ukrainians.

Despite these successes, the reality of the war is ever-present while Anna’s family remains in Ukraine. She described their decision as a testament to the profound attachment they have to their homeland and the hope that the horrors of war will soon come to an end.

“I long for the days when our friends were an integral part of our lives, and my husband’s spontaneous and fun get-togethers and trips were a source of joy,” Anna wrote. “I also find myself yearning for my mother, her happiness when we visited her for breakfast, and the delightful new recipes she’d share with us.”

Regarding the current state of the war, Anna dwelled on its far-reaching effects on the country’s economy and educational system. While she remains hopeful for a future of peace, Anna acknowledged that the scars of conflict will take a long time to heal.

“While I hold on to my belief and hope for a future where peace prevails, where the skies are filled with civilian aviation instead of missiles, I am aware that it will be a transformed nation, with citizens who have endured the profound injustices of war,” Anna wrote. “Currently, many towns and villages have been erased from the map, their once unique identities now preserved only in our memories. It is a source of deep sorrow for me, especially as my own town has fallen victim to this unfortunate fate.”

Amidst the challenges of her life as a refugee in America, Anna finds moments of joy in making new friends and embracing the world of art and creativity. She added that one of the best parts of living in Sea Cliff is being surrounded by so many artists, and she continues to make new friends and learn more about her temporary home, using her own happiness to counter the evil from the hateful and unconscionable war.

“Life as a refugee in America presents its fair share of challenges, but amidst the lows, there are always moments of joy,” Anna concluded. “For me, these moments come from making new friends, immersing myself in a new culture, and, of course, embracing the world of art and creativity.”