Seeking refuge: Wisconsin group welcomes Ukrainian family fleeing war
WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A Ukrainian family has found shelter in Waukesha from the war, all thanks to a group of friends.
Oleksandr Bochkov shared his family's journey from Ukraine to the United States with CBS 58.
"Just a normal, simple life, but in one day, everything changed," Bochkov said.
That day was Feb. 24, 2022. The day Russia launched a large-scale military assault on Ukraine.
Bochkov recalls hearing a loud explosion from his home in Mariupol.
"We decided not to panic and to stay home," Bochkov said.
While others were fleeing the city and country, Bochkov and his family sought shelter in their basement for three weeks. With no heat, he said sometimes it got as cold as 10 degrees below zero.
"We didn't have electricity. Also, no internet. No nothing," Bochkov said. "We had to prepare food in the yard."
It was no longer safe to stay.
"It was like battlefield," Bochkov said.
In a group with family, friends and neighbors, they left Mariupol for another Ukrainian city. They went from Crimea to Georgia to Turkey.
That's when Bochkov found Brooke Cutler.
"It almost feels like I was meant to know them," Cutler said.
From Waukesha County, Cutler and her friends started a sponsor circle.
It’s a program that gives Americans the responsibility of welcoming refugees into their communities.
"As a sponsor circle, you are solely responsible for their sponsorship and all of their financial needs," Cutler said.
The group of friends set out to raise money, initially to help an Afghan family.
Cutler said they raised about $25,000.
By the time they became ready to welcome a family, Ukrainians were seeking shelter from the war.
Now, she's helping the Bochkov's become accustomed to their new Waukesha apartment and life in the United States.
"It's honestly one of the most beautiful experiences of my life," Cutler said.
While life is still difficult for Oleksandr, he said he's just grateful his family is safe again.
"We can do anything, everything, because we are all together," Bochkov said.
Cutler is helping Bochkov's parents to the U.S. from Turkey. Their sponsor circle just applied to bring two of Bochkov's friends, as well.
If you want to help their sponsor circle, click here. They have a goal of $50,000.