More than 800 Ukrainians have resettled in Rochester since the start of the war

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. One year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine.

Since then, millions of Ukrainians have fled, more than 800 of them to the Rochester region. On Thursday, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke spoke with two families who now call Rochester home about their journey here and what the future might hold. Olesia Gladka was an English teacher in Ukraine.

“Ukraine is a wonderful country,” she says. “Its beautiful nature, friendly people, great food.”

She and her husband could have never imagined what was coming. For the first few months of the war, they stayed.

“We experienced all the air raids, so we were hiding in shelters and basements,” she recalls.

But eventually, they decided to leave. The couple had family members in the Rochester area, so coming here was an obvious choice.

“My parents and my sister and all my friends are still in Ukraine,” Gladka says.

She speaks with those loved ones as often as possible to hear about the everyday challenges they face during wartime.

“It’s regular blackouts every day because they still keep hitting the electrical hubs,” she says.

Heat and water come and go, school and most jobs are done remotely, so it’s easier to hide when the air raid sirens go off.

“Kyiv and Ukraine stand free and strong and we do believe that we are going to win,” Gladka says but it’s been a long year.

“The biggest problem is they are losing the hope that it’s going to finish at some point in time.”

The Pinska family was holding out hope that they could stay in the country they love.

“We had a perfect life in Ukraine,” says Alina Pinska. “I had a job, my daughter went to school and it was a perfect life.”

That was until her 8-year-old daughter Veronika saw a bomb go off from the window of their home.

“My husband said ‘Alina, we have to take a safe place for our daughter and for us because Veronica was afraid very much,’” she recalls of the emotional decision.

The family fled to Germany and spent nine months in Berlin before getting approved for the federal Uniting For Ukraine program run through Catholic Charities to resettle in Rochester.

More than 800 Ukrainians locally have been provided help with food, transportation and housing. They’ve also been referred to healthcare providers, schools, job training programs and English language classes.

It’s helped both of these families start over while the country they love continues to fight for its freedom.

“First thing I want when I will call my parents one day, I just want to hear … we won, it stopped and you can come home,” says Gladka.