Ukrainian family wishes for peace as they celebrate their first Christmas in America

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – She wrote a letter to Saint Nicholas she was asking for peace and light. Instead of a material gift, Tetyana Poverlyak’s 7-year-old daughter asked Santa to bring peace to her country.

The holidays bring cheer, but for some families that might not be the case. A local Ukrainian family explained how this year’s holiday celebrations are different.

It’s almost been a year since Russia invaded Ukraine. A family who has been living in the United States, Irondequoit to be exact, has been here for about five months now. They had to leave family behind, so celebrating the holidays has been emotionally difficult.

“It’s not so happy for us, since we divided the part of our family is in Ukraine, and we are here.. It’s sad,” Poverlyak said.  

The holidays are meant to be merry and bright, but for Poverlyak and her family, it’s hard to feel it when loved ones at home are facing life and death. But, her family here in Monroe County decided to carry out traditions to stay positive.

“We know your traditions from the movies, but we have specific traditions in Ukraine, so we cook specific food like you do.”

Poverlyak and her family cooked food to send back home, to support soldiers fighting the war.

“We also engage and support the soldiers in the war . My mom prepare the Ukrainian food for soldiers and they sent it already,” Poverlyak added.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, while trying to escape, Poverlyak was separated from her brothers and her father. She, and her daughter, found safety in Poland, but only for a short time. Her brothers and father are still in Ukraine.

She applied for the United Ukraine program, a pathway to safety created by the United States. Now Poverlyak,  and her family, pray that one day their loved ones can join them.

“For all of us, what we want to say is thank you.”

Poverlyak was able to get a job with the Rochester School District, in the office of Adult and Career Education Services Division. She says she loves it. All her family wants for Christmas, or into the new year, is for the war to be over so they can visit Ukraine.