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Topeka USD 501 hires Ukrainian parents to work in schools

It was such a beautiful life – “with a lot to love” – ​​that Larysa Krevchuk lived in Ukraine, and that’s what makes it so hard to believe that it no longer exists.

The Ukrainian grandmother had a good family and a good job. They lived on enough: a nice two-story house and enough money to travel occasionally. Krevchuk also worked in Italy and returned home to see her daughter Alex Obminiana and grandson Dmytro “Dima” Obminiany.

Moreover:A Ukrainian couple has left their war-torn homeland with a baby on the way. She was born in Topeka.

The family lived in peace.

So when that peace was shattered nearly 12 months ago after Russia illegally invaded their country, Krevchuk made the difficult, if not the only, decision to flee with her daughter and grandson.

“Every time you switch seats, it’s hard,” the grandmother said in Italian, through a $501 Topeka interpreter. “It was particularly hard, because I had been working in Italy for a long time. When the war started, I had to hurry home to be with my family. But it was really just the time to pack our things and leave. “

Topeka USD 501 is working to support parents and family of Ukrainian refugee students

After months of travel, the family ended up in Washington state, as one of the tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have managed to reach the United States. It was there that Topekan Yana Ross found family, through an online connection, and helped set them up. with a transfer in Topeka.

Krevchuk never imagined moving to the United States, let alone Kansas, but in the state capital, she said she found a wonderful, peaceful community, particularly in USD 501 Topeka, where scores of the city’s Ukrainian refugees attend school.

Moreover:Helping resettle Ukrainian refugees is personal for Topeka Task Force leader Yana Ross

“(My nephew Dima) loves school,” she said. “He loves his teachers, his classmates. He made a lot of friends, but he was closest to another Ukrainian middle school student.”

But since refugees began arriving in Topeka last spring, the school district recognized that in order to support its new Ukrainian students, it needed to support its parents as well. This meant not only helping with interpreting services, English lessons and school supplies, but also finding work for the families.

Amid a general crisis for school staffing, what better place for Ukrainian parents to work than in their children’s classrooms or other supportive positions?

“These are amazing people and they deserve opportunities too,” said Pilar Mejía, director of cultural innovation for Topeka USD 501. “They have skills that are useful for our community and our school district. We want to make sure we open up opportunities, and help them have a smooth transition to life in the U.S. They bring so much and we all benefit from their community and talent.”

Moreover:How USD 501 Topeka Schools are gearing up to teach Ukrainian refugee students

Since late last fall and as work visas allow, the district has been hiring Ukrainian parents and family members as para-educators and catering workers. Mejía said she helps create a sense of community in the district, especially by allowing parents to work in the same school system their children attend.

“They are incredibly resilient people who are an example to anyone who meets them,” she said. “We want the best for them. They come with rich backgrounds and I want them to find a home that is as close to what they had before as possible and opportunities to create even better lives.”

Working in the United States means building new American dreams for Ukrainian refugees in Topeka

Krevchuk, who had extensive experience working at a food company in Ukraine, has been hired as a child nutritionist at Jardine Elementary School for the past two weeks. It’s a little different than what she used to, since most school meals are pre-prepared and the food service workers mostly heat and plate up children’s food.

But he still loves the job and the people he works with, even if the language is still a small barrier. In addition to speaking Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, Krevchuk’s fluency in Italian, a romantic language, allows her to mix up some conversations with a Spanish-speaking colleague.

Moreover:Ukrainian families find welcoming arms in Topeka after fleeing their homes: ‘The war has begun’

Krevchuk’s daughter Alex is also employed by the school district, as a paraeducator at Shaner Early Learning Academy, while Dima attends school at the adjacent Jardine Middle School.

“Where we are now, he’s happy,” said the grandmother. “We are so happy and we are speechless. We have found amazing people, good people, sweet people who help us in everything.”

As she thinks of the good life she has so recently enjoyed in Ukraine, Krevchuk is adamant: there is no going back to that life.

There is nowhere to go back.

“I talk to my three brothers and my mother every day, and they all have their families there. Every day it’s getting harder and harder,” Krevchuk said. “I’m not thinking of returning.”

Krevchuk maintains the same hopes he has had for the past year: that the war in Ukraine can end and that his family can live in peace.

Moreover:Topekan close to family in Ukraine: “They are in a much more powerful, strong and encouraging mood than us”

But she also has new hopes that she and her family can find a better life in Topeka. She is eager to learn English and perhaps one day buy a car and a house and make a new home in a community she has grown to love, especially along with her immediate family.

Above all, Krevchuk hopes that one day Dima will find a peace that has been broken for him in his home country.

“I want him to make good friends, learn well, graduate and go to college,” Grandma said. “We live a quiet life now. I love where I work and I love the people.”

Rafael Garcia is an educational reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 785-289-5325. Follow him on Twitter at @byRafaelGarcia.

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