Ukrainian family stranded in Hawaii are given a house for free

A Ukrainian family who became stranded in Hawaii when the war broke out during their vacation have been given a new temporary home to live in rent-free on the island.

Vasyl and Marina Prishchak and their three daughters Maria, 16, Sofia, 10, and Kseniia, 5, traveled from their home in Kyiv to Oahu for a long-awaited holiday visiting their friends Borys and Beata Markin in the middle of February.

But, just days into their three-week trip, their dream holiday turned to heartbreak as Russia declared war on Ukraine and they found themselves watching from Afar as their home country came under attack.

More than one month on, with the planned vacation now over, they remain stuck in the US not knowing if their home close to a Ukrainian military base is even still standing or if they will ever be able to return home.

Their cosmetics company has been forced to close and access to their finances has been cut off, according to the Associated Press.

The canoe paddling community has rallied around the family in their time of need, with one local homeowner giving them a cottage to stay rent-free for as long as they need in Kaneohe.

Thousands of dollars have been raised in donations to support the displaced family, with a GoFundMe organized by one local reaching more than $33,000 on Thursday.

Meanwhile, others are helping them in other ways, such as supporting them with immigration questions as they apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

In early March, President Joe Biden announced he was granting TPS to Ukrainians fleeing from the war, enabling Ukrainians to stay and work legally in the US for 18 months.

An estimated 75,000 people will be shielded from deportation back to the war zone because of this rule.

The Prishchaks said they are thankful for the outpouring of support they have received from the local community in the US.

Mr Prishchak, who has known Mr Markin for three decades, told AP that “this vacation changed our life.”

“We don’t know how we return to Ukraine and what we will do, we will begin from zero, from scratch,” he said.

He said that he feels guilty being on a beautiful island away from his home while his fellow Ukrainian men are unable to leave the country and are now fighting on the frontline.

“It’s a really terrible feeling that eats away at you from inside when you understand that all your close relatives are now in a very complicated situation,” he said.

“And there’s no way you can help them stop this absolute insanity. It’s a feeling that simply eats you up inside, you could say.

“A horrible sensation, an inner guilt that I’m here and not there.”

Ms Markin, who has lived with her Ukrainian husband in Hawaii for eight years, said she sees it as “our responsibility to make sure they are okay here” as they “have nowhere to go”.

Charlotte Johnson, an Oahu resident who set up the GoFundMe, called on her fellow Americans to “bring hope to their lives by sharing our aloha.”

“Sadly, we can’t help all the Ukrainians, but we can help this family of five,” she wrote on the fundraising page.

“None of us can even imagine going on a vacation only to find the life left no longer exists.”

She added: “Even the smallest donation will make a difference. To a country half a world away, these five Ukrainians are our touchpoint.

“Today we can help this Ukrainian family who took a vacation and will never return to the home they knew.”

Last week, on the one-month anniversary of the day the war began, Mr Biden unveiled plans to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and other refugees fleeing the country into the US.

He also pledged to provide $1bn in humanitarian assistance to help with the rising humanitarian crisis as more than 4 million refugees have now left their homes in Ukraine.

It’s a move that comes after pressure was mounting on the US from European counterparts to do more to support Ukrainian refugees.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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