SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — A metro Detroit charter school is opening its doors to more than 100 Ukrainian refugee students as more than 4 million people flee the war-torn country.
For the first time, Ukrainian refugee students are sharing their own personal stories after coming to metro Detroit to start a new life at a new school. They are brave and fearless teenagers now living far from their homes.
Five young Ukrainian refugees traveled from different parts of their war-torn country, escaping harsh realities of a battle with Russia. All of them traveled through Poland before flying to the United States.
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“I came here with my young brother and mother. We ran away because of fear,” Vladislav Kozar said.
At A.G.B.U. Alex and Marie Manoogian School in Southfield, 125 children like Kozar from Ukraine have come to seek a safe, new start.
“I brought only clothes — two coats and one jeans,” Kozar said.
The public charter school is donating clothes and other resources to them after they quickly fled with a parent, grandparent, sibling or, in some cases, all alone.
“From Poland to USA, by plane, I immigrated. My uncle and his family live here in the USA,” Hlib Tymoshenko said.
Ukrainian students study English as a second language, along with other traditional classes and are embracing a new culture. But they still remain focused on family that stayed behind to volunteer and work.
Tymoshenko is 17 and arrived just five days ago after traveling through Poland. Like these other students, he’s living with relatives in metro Detroit.
“I escaped with my grandma. My parents are still in Ukraine,” Tymoshenko said.
Classmate Viktoriya Khomin doesn’t understand the reason for war that began with a Russian invasion. She just wants to be reunited with loved ones who she can still thankfully talk with by phone after being in metro Detroit for only three weeks.
7 Action News reporter Simon Shaykhet used his own heritage, being Russian and Ukrainian, to ask the student in Russian what she wants us to know about hardships she and others now face. She says it’s very difficult to leave everything there, and everything is new starting a new life.
“New students, they bring so much fresh air to the school,” mentor and teacher Lilit Babloumian said.
Babloumian left Armenia for Russia then immigrated to the U.S.
“I’m super proud of these students and our school. What we do is very important,” Babloumian said.
She and high school Principal Hosep Torossian stress the importance of community support and welcoming young refugees who left everything behind.
“We go back 700 years or so, we have to understand the plight of the refugee all over the world. We have suffered quite a bit in our history in Armenia, ” Torossian said.
Their work goes far beyond the classroom by serving students from all over the world of every race and ethnicity to give a bright future to kids who’ve escaped the darkest of times.