Ukrainian woman in Rochester reflects on year-long war in her homeland

IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y. It’s coming up on a year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Rochester has become home to many refugees who came here to escape the war.

One woman who now lives here says it’s been a difficult adjustment but believes there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been a difficult journey for Tetyana Poverlyak, who fled her homeland seven months ago.

News10NBC last spoke to her in December and checked up on her Friday to see how she’s adjusting to life in Rochester. She explains leaving your home by choice is one thing, but leaving under pressure is painful.

“I have everything but I have everything at home in Ukraine,” she said. “Here I have this apartment, furniture, walls, but I don’t have the feeling of this being home and I am safe here.”

She says she understands it’s normal to feel this way. It’s also a common problem among her clients, who fled Ukraine and are now living in Europe. Tetyana is now a psychotherapist and hosts group sessions. She uses psychoanalysis to help Ukrainians who are dealing with stress, anxiety, depression and the trauma from the violence they experience before leaving Ukraine.

“About war, about adaptation, about stress and today I had a webinar and I talked to them about empathy when you don’t want to do nothing,” she said.

She showed a butterfly exercise she shares with her clients.

“It helps to reduce the stress, the anxiety when you feel the rocket on your head and shakes,” she said.

Tetayana and her 8-year-old daughter have been separated from her family since fleeing Ukraine, leaving behind her parents and her two brothers. Her dad has been drafted to fight in the war. He says this will help protect his sons from having to be drafted. Her mom stayed behind. She says she would die from a broken heart leaving her husband of 30 years behind.

“I believe in the future that he will come back,” she said. “I have two younger brothers. They have kids. and maybe this saved them. Of course, it’s stressful for her but she speaks with father if he has the ability to talk.”

Tetyana also has a second job working with the ESL School for Adults. She shared what keeps her up at night: thoughts of not knowing if this war will end.