To make a donation online, use the Zeffy form below. If you prefer to send a check, make checks payable to Winona Sheltering Network and write “Ukrainian Resettlement Fund” on the memo line. Mail to: Jerry Windley-Daoust, 664 Winona St., Winona, MN 55987. Please include your email so you can receive our email newsletter with updates about the family.
Your tax-deductible donation to WSN’s Ukrainian Resettlement Fund will be used to help Dmytro and his family resettle in Minneapolis. Funds will help pay for housing, transportation, food, and other household expenses during the family’s first four months. Any funds remaining after this period will be given to the family to help them save for the next stage of their American journey. Read more about Dmytro’s story below.
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Dmytro is a 33-year-old from Kyiv, Ukraine, whose mother, Svitlana, and younger brother, Artem, lived in the nearby city of Vasylkiv…home to an air base and a major target of invading Russian forces at the start of the war.
Artem, 19, is autistic and nonverbal. Prior to the war, he had been receiving state-provided care. With the invasion, that care ended. He and his mother spent the first two months of the war frequently sheltering in their root cellar as urban fighting surged through their neighborhood and Russian missiles, aimed at the airbase, sometimes went off course, landing in nearby residential areas.
Determined to get out, Dmytro began sending cold-call e-mails to various U.S.-based organizations. One of his e-mails went to CatholicWorker.org, the website of the international Catholic Worker Movement. One of our Winona Sheltering Network volunteers, Jerry Windley-Daoust, manages the email for that website.
The letter Jerry received from Dmytro on May 30 was heart-wrenching:
Hello! My name is Dmytro, I am Ukrainian and currently in Ukraine. I am looking for protection for my family of three people from the Russian terror here.
We are two brothers and mother. I am the elder brother and also the head of the family, I am 33 years old. My younger brother is A—-, he is 19 years old. He is a special boy, autistic, and has a disability. I am his guardian. And our mom — S—-, 53 years old.
No matter what, we are a positive family and love life very much.
We live in Vasylkiv nearby to Kyiv and we have been in Ukraine since the war began till today. There is a military base in our town, so we are always in a zone of increased danger to life. In recent days, Russia has been bombing Kyiv particularly hard and we can’t take it anymore.
The situation for our family is complicated by the fact that hospitals for mental health treatment are already full of shell-shocked soldiers and people like my brother have become a non-priority for doctors.
The letter went on to say that the family wished to come to the United States under the U.S. Department of State’s Uniting for Ukraine resettlement program. All they needed was a sponsor.
Jerry spent two months looking for a sponsor. None of the groups or individuals he approached were able to help, though; with so many refugees coming to the United States, many potential sponsors were already maxed out helping others, as was the case for the Winona Sheltering Network, which has provided aid to dozens of Central American and Afghan refugees and asylum seekers.
Given that reality, Jerry offered to sponsor the family himself. A few other volunteers from the Winona Sheltering Network offered to help, and eventually, Jerry assembled a Twin Cities-based support team, too. (The plan was to relocate the family there instead of Winona because it seemed important for Svitlana to be near other Ukrainians, and also because there are more services available there.) Together, these volunteers form the nucleus of the Toporynskyi Welcome Team.
Dozen of donors stepped forward to provide the family with enough financial help to get them started. And Alight, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization, provided invaluable assistance via their Ukrainian sponsor guide program, which connects the sponsors of Ukrainian refugees with services and other sponsors.
With all of this in place, Jerry filed the necessary sponsorship paperwork with the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service’s Uniting for Ukraine program.
Welcome to Minnesota
The family landed in Minnesota on Thursday, Dec. 7, after three days of travel. All they brought with them fit into three backpacks and two large suitcases.
Although the family initially stayed at an Alight-provided AirBnB, within days the Welcome Team volunteers were moving them into a new apartment in Roseville.
That team has been supported by Alight, formerly American Refugee Committee. Alight has provided professional guidance through the whole process and is providing the family with 30 days of AirBnB temporary housing. Winona-based volunteers had collected furnishings and other household items and loaded a truck to deliver everything the Saturday after the family’s arrival.
Another team of volunteers unloaded the truck and made up the apartment.
“Our smiles get wider and wider,” Dmytro said, expressing the family’s gratitude.
The Welcome Team has paid the first six months’ of the family’s rent on a modest two-bedroom apartment in a good location in Roseville. Without any credit or rental history, the up-front payment of six months’ rent (plus a security deposit and various fees) was a requirement for securing the apartment.
The first few days were a whirlwind: the morning after their arrival, the family went to the Social Security office to apply for social security numbers. Next was a visit to the Ukrainian American Community Center for an orientation class and to connect with a Ukrainian resettlement guide from Lutheran Social Services.
The following week saw even more appointments, including one to apply for MinnesotaCare. The family visited a food bank to pick up groceries, and made trips to some nearby stores, including SuperTarget.
There has been time for fun, though, too. The family has enjoyed visiting the local Ukrainian market, the Mall of America, and the Minnesota Zoo. One of our St. Paul volunteers hosted the family for Christmas.
Dmytro’s girlfriend, also a Ukrainian war refugee who has been living in New York City since this past spring, flew out to join the family for the holidays.
While the family has had a relatively smooth start thanks to our generous volunteers and donors, they have a long road ahead of them. Artem needs constant care, meaning Dmytro will need to find a job that pays well enough to support the family…or work two jobs. Each member of the family has health concerns, some of which require immediate attention. Dmytro needs to obtain a Minnesota driver’s license and learn to drive, and Svitlana has to start from scratch learning English. While they’re deeply grateful to be here, they are also coping with the traumatizing effects of the war.
Over the next few months, the Welcome Team will be helping the family meet all of these challenges: finding a job, finding medical care, enrolling Artem in school, and so on.
Second Stage Fundraising
That’s why, despite the substantial boost the family has already received, we’re hoping to raise another $5,000 by February 1. The money will be used to cover medical expenses during the family’s uninsured period; provide a downpayment on a used car; and hire an immigration attorney to help the family secure permanent residency.
If you can help, please do. Your donation is tax-deductible. And if you provide us with your e-mail address, we’ll add you to our list of people receiving regular updates about the family’s progress.
Whether you donate or not, thanks for your interest and support!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Dmytro legally leave Ukraine?
Yes, because his brother has been legally declared disabled. Dmytro is his legal guardian.
Is my donation tax-deductible?
Yes. You will receive a tax receipt by email immediately after donating. If you mail a check be sure to make it out to Winona Sheltering Network; I will send you a receipt.
How much do you need?
We’ve paid for the first six months’ of the family’s apartment rent and will be covering 100% of their living expenses through April. We’re hoping to raise another $5,000 by February 1 to help with additional medical expenses and to provide the downpayment on a used car.
Do you need more volunteers?
Always. “Many hands make light work” and all that. If you want to help make phone calls or search for housing or take the family to an appointment, please contact Jerry at email@example.com.
Have questions? Contact Jerry directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.