Ukrainian family experiencing first Thanksgiving after fleeing war-torn country

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WILMINGTON – It will be a taste of home on Thanksgiving as rice, meat and vegetables are rolled into leaves for a traditional Ukrainian meal, and a taste of a new home in the United States experiencing cranberry sauce for the first time. “In Ukraine I only hear about Thanksgiving Day. I say ‘hmmmm’ interesting,” said Tanya Bondar.

With her two children she arrived to family in Wilmington from Ukraine back in March. They’re now coming to understand the American Thanksgiving after spending months learning how to cope in a new place far from their war-torn country.

“I can say I lost everything. I lost my life in Ukraine,” said Bondar.

Here her two-year-old son Teesha is finally communicating, and 13-year-old Timothy is in school, though both are in therapy coping with PTSD.

“You don’t know the language, can’t understand anything, no friends,” Bondar said. “For him it was very, very stressful.”

The family fled the capitol city Kyiv when the bombing began, spending three weeks in Poland to arrange documentation before arriving at sister-in-aw Elena Cannata’s home. It was only in June the family was reunited with Tanya’s husband Slavic, and with help from the community found housing and social services.

The family wants to pay it forward after so much support to welcome their relatives into the community. A fund has been established to directly help women and children in Ukraine.

“Mothers and children specifically struggling to survive there, they can’t leave, have no money and have lost everything,” said Elena Cannata.

Giving thanks has a whole new meaning for this family. “I know for them what is this, but after tomorrow it will be their favorite holiday,” said Cannata.

Though there’s still uncertainty where home will finally be.