On April 22, 2022, Nataliia Voloshyna lifts a tray of uncooked varenyky, traditional Ukrainian dumplings, she and other volunteers made at Streecha, a Ukrainian restaurant in Little Ukraine, downtown Manhattan, New York City.
Nataliia Voloshyna fled her home country of Ukraine due to the Russian invasion and found refuge in Yonkers, New York. She is one of millions of Ukrainians whose lives have been impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Story of a Ukrainian Refugee in New York
Story, Photos and Web Project by Jimin Kim
June 12, 2022
On March 10, 2022, Nataliia Voloshyna came to the United States from Dnipro, Ukraine to flee the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as of June 9, approximately 7.4 million Ukrainian refugees have left Ukraine as a result of the Russian invasion. According to the United Nation’s International Organization for Migration, at the beginning of May, nearly 8 million Ukrainians have been displaced inside Ukraine. Nataliia is one of millions of Ukrainian refugees whose lives have been changed by the war in Ukraine.
On April 21, 2022, Olga Kovalenko, left, Nataliia Voloshyna, center, and Dmytro Kovalenko, right, pose for a portrait at Streecha, a Ukrainian restaurant in Little Ukraine, downtown Manhattan, New York City.
After arriving to the U.S., Nataliia, 64, moved into the home of her daughter, Olga Kovalenko, 37, and Olga’s husband, Dmytro Kovalenko, 41, in Yonkers, New York. Yonkers is a city located just north of the Bronx borough of New York City.
Before coming to the U.S., Nataliia suffered her first minor heart attack in Dnipro on Feb. 21, three days before the Russian invasion. Nataliia’s son and Olga’s older brother, Mykola Voloshyn, 40, brought Nataliia straight to the hospital after Nataliia‘s heart attack. She left the hospital in early March.
On Feb. 22, 2022, Mykola Voloshyn, right, poses for a photo with his mother, Nataliia Voloshyna, at a hospital in Dnipro, Ukraine. On Feb. 21, 2022, Nataliia suffered a minor heart attack and Mykola brought her to the hospital that day.
Lida Leshchuk, a Ukrainian American
and Nataliia’s friend, translated for Nataliia
during Nataliia's interview. On April 22,
they spoke at a table in Streecha, a
Ukrainian restaurant in Little Ukraine,
downtown Manhattan, New York City.
Streecha is owned by
St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church
down the street from the restaurant.
All of the proceeds from Streecha go to the
church and Streecha’s staff are volunteers.
Nataliia said when the war started, there were air-sirens going off constantly in all of the cities in Ukraine including Dnipro because it was unclear where the bombs would hit or where the bombs were coming from. Nataliia lived in her own apartment in Dnipro. Her husband passed away years ago. She has two children, Mykola and Olga.
On April. 22, 2022, Nataliia Voloshyna, left, cleans the table after preparing varenyky with other volunteers at Streecha. Lida Leshchuk, right, also prepared varenyky and translated for Nataliia during the interview.
On April. 21, 2022, a man exits Streecha, a Ukrainian restaurant in Little Ukraine, downtown Manhattan, New York City. The restaurant is located in a basement below a chiropractor's office.
On April. 21, 2022, pedestrians walk in front of St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church in Little Ukraine, downtown Manhattan, New York City. Streecha is a Ukrainian restaurant down the street that has been a fundraising arm of the church since the restaurant was formed.
On April. 22, 2022, Nataliia Voloshyna gives an interview at Streecha. Lida Leshchuk translates in English for Nataliia who is speaking Ukrainian.
“A lot of danger was in the air,” said Nataliia, describing her experience in Dnipro when the Russian invasion started. “The fact that nobody knew exactly where the missiles would land, that made you feel very scared. There was the bombing in the beginning of the war. A lot of ruination.”
In early March, Olga and Mykola decided it would be safer for Nataliia to leave Ukraine. So, Nataliia left Dnipro. Dnipro is located in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, a region next to the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine where some of the heaviest fighting has been taking place in the war. According to video footage from Mykola, Mykola took Nataliia to the train station in Dnipro in early March.
Video footage taken by Mykola Voloshyn in early March shows the train station in Dnipro, Ukraine the day he brought his mother, Nataliia Voloshyna to the station. Nataliia took the train from the station and went to Lviv, Ukraine to escape from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Mykola had to stay in Ukraine. Since the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian government has mandated all Ukrainian men who are between the ages of 18 and 60 to stay in Ukraine and fight if needed, with few exceptions. Mykola is a volunteer in Dnipro delivering supplies to the armed forces on the frontline in the city.
Furthermore, Nataliia took the train from Dnipro to Lviv, a city in western Ukraine near Poland. Nataliia said she saw explosions in two places on the way to Lviv. She said there were people evacuating from Zaporizhia, Kharkiv, Kyiv and many other Ukrainian cities. She said it was one huge evacuation line going to Lviv.
“It was intimidating, frightening to see all the women and the children because that was basically who was in the evacuation lines,” said Nataliia. “Everybody was crying and you’re going into the unknown, leaving your husbands, leaving the male members of the family, the dads, the husbands and going into the unknown.”
But, she said the passage to Lviv was relatively safe. She added that she made the right choice coming to the U.S.
In the evening of March 10, 2022, Nataliia Voloshyna, left, takes a photo with her daughter, Olga Kovalenko, at Olga's home in Yonkers, New York. Earlier that night, Olga picked her mother up from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Nataliia arrived to the U.S. from Warsaw, Poland after leaving Ukraine to escape from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“It’s good that those that left, they left because the ones that are left, like for example, Mariupol, they are stuck,” said Nataliia. “There is a huge hostage, humanitarian crisis there."
From Lviv, civilian volunteers drove Nataliia to Warsaw, Poland. According to travel documents from Nataliia, Nataliia took a plane from Warsaw on March 10 and arrived in New Jersey the same day. Olga drove to Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey to pick her mother up.
“I’m glad,” said Olga. “The moment she arrived, the moment I saw her in the airport, I felt a big relief. I just was so happy that she is next to me. I’m OK for her to stay as long as she wants.”
On April. 26, 2022, Olga Kovalenko gives a phone interview.
In the morning of April 22, Nataliia helped to make varenyky, traditional Ukrainian dumplings, at Streecha. Dmytro volunteers as a cook at the restaurant. Once a week, usually on Saturday mornings, local volunteers help prepare Streecha’s supply of varenyky for the following week.
On April 22, 2022, Nataliia Voloshyna, center, and other volunteers help prepare varenyky, traditional Ukrainian dumplings, at Streecha.
At home in Yonkers, Nataliia sows Ukrainian flags which Streecha sells for donations sent to Ukraine. Olga said her mother has been able to make some friends in New York City due to the large Ukrainian community there. New York City is home to more than 150,000 Ukrainians, the largest single Ukrainian population in the U.S.
Nataliia Voloshyna, right, at the home of Dmytro and Olga Kovalenko in Yonkers, New York, stitches a Ukrainian flag which Streecha sells for donations to Ukraine at the restaurant.
On April 21, 2022, a Ukrainian flag is displayed at Streecha. Streecha sells the flag and sends the proceeds as donations to Ukraine. Nataliia Voloshyna hand-stitches the flags at the home of Dmytro and Olga Kovalenko in Yonkers, New York.
“I think it might have been helpful for her just to talk to other people and to hear their thoughts, their ideas, what they think how to proceed with this situation,” said Olga about Nataliia finding company with the Ukrainian folks in New York City. “That’s why actually she likes to go to Streecha, to help make varenyky every Sat. to talk to people.”