Ukrainian Family Comes to the Docks

From a war zone to a floating home: Mischa, Emily and Katja  |  photo from Katja Guliaieva |  post by Katja and Larry Clinton

The floating homes community recently greeted new neighbors—a Ukrainian family fleeing the horrors of war in their homeland. Katja Guliaieva, the wife of the family, has written the following account of their amazing journey:

We have been asked to share with you a short story of the miracles and kindnesses that have brought us over 6,000 miles from the worsening horror of the Ukrainian war zone to the safety of America.

We are a family of refugees from the war in Ukraine: my husband Mischa and our five-year-old daughter, Emily, and I am Katja. Our hometown of Kherson has been occupied for nine months and now is practically destroyed with the daily and nightly bombings.

We had to leave our home which we built ourselves. We left our families, our friends, our cars and each of our businesses. We made this very difficult decision to finally leave based on the psychological state of our young daughter. When she began to experience deterioration of her nerves and other consequences of traumatic stress—fears, hysteria, and some regression—we knew we had to find the way to help her feel safe.

When one of Emily’s little friends, Mark, was killed by a mine and another neighbor, Nikolai, age 13, died when his family inside their home was bombed, it became too much. The situation became untenable, and we had to leave with only one suitcase so we could fit into the van of friends.

The journey took us through Crimea and Russia and Georgia and finally into Turkey. We applied for immigration to the United States but had no expectation whatsoever of ever being accepted as so many have waited so long. But miracle of miracles, United for Ukraine and a wonderful woman in Minnesota helped us gain entry to the U.S.A. This was the beginning of a journey of miracles.

At the same time through Nova Ukraine, a beautiful and generous couple, Regina and Joe, had offered their home [on Issaquah Dock] for a number of weeks. We had no allocations for housing, food, clothing, anything at all.

We arrived just a few days before Thanksgiving, your holiday of gratitude. On Thanksgiving night, a neighbor and very new friend brought us a whole Thanksgiving dinner from the table of her family and shared with us everything about what this holiday here means. We were so filled with gratitude, and while we were still in an extreme state of exhaustion and trauma, we took that gratitude, and made it our new way of being.

We have always been very self-sufficient, independent and hard-working, so it was a new experience to begin to accept the sincere care and love from everyone we have met. We are ready to start and move on our new lives and contribute back to America who has made us feel so welcome.

The biggest challenge for us now are our funds for food and to supplement our housing. We are working at transferring our skills to America with licenses and work permit for me as an aesthetician and cosmetologist and permanent makeup artist and for Mischa, making the connections because he is an automobile parts specialist. Emily is now enrolled in kindergarten in a wonderful school with a lovely teacher and very warm and welcoming students. She is beginning to thrive and her English gets better every day.

We have been given many clothes to keep us warm this winter and other very thoughtful gifts from the heart.

People are asking how they can support us. The most immediate way is to help with our finances, even in just a very small way. Whatever speaks to someone’s heart and if indeed, you cannot share anything then we so appreciate your good wishes and your prayers for our new life here in America. Your country is a dream of people from all different places coming together and learning to live together in harmony, even though they think very differently and come from very different backgrounds.

This is an amazing country and we are so very, very, very grateful to be now a part of the American Dream. Thank you for taking your time to read this and may blessings be upon you and your families and may Peace be to all of our world.

Katja and her family temporarily moved to Stone Soup on Liberty Dock, generously offered by owners David and Elaine West. Says Katja: “They kindly gave us their wonderful house for a month while we were looking for a permanent place to live. We arrived here with literally nothing, without knowing a single person. And now have the hope of finding everything again what we lost in Ukraine, due to our new warm community and good friends from South Marin! Our gratitude is boundless! For us, Americans are the most sympathetic and kind-hearted people we have ever met!”

The family has now found long-term housing in Marin City, but still need financial support to rebuild their careers. You can help with a tax-deductible donation.