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After fleeing war, Ukrainian family finds lots of aloha in Big Island community

While the Russia-Ukraine war is more than 12,000 miles away, a community on the Big Island's North Shore is helping bring peace to some Ukrainian families.
Published: May. 21, 2022 at 8:33 PM HST|Updated: May. 22, 2022 at 9:09 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Marharyta and her two daughters are a long way from home.

They moved to Honoka’a from Oleksandriya town in Central Ukraine — their lives disrupted when Russia invaded their country three months ago.

“When there was sirens, we had to shelter ourselves,” said Marharyta, who asked HNN not to share her last name. They fled to Poland and stayed at a refugee camp. “It was hard to leave everything behind because I had my job, my life,” she said.

Her daughter Daria is 11, and is a bit nervous about going to school in a new country.

“It was painful to leave and I was scared to leave,” she said.

Elizabeth is 8, and doesn’t remember much about their long journey to Hawaii.

“We were driving through Carpathian Mountains on the cart when fleeing Ukraine,” she recalled. “There was snow in Carpatho and it was really. really beautiful.”

Marharyta’s sister, Olena, lives in Honoka’a so she applied for a tourist visa to stay with her.

“Hopefully the war will end soon and we can come back as soon as we can,” she said.

Now the ‘ohana are finding some peace in Hawaii, with the help of the Hongwanji Buddhist Temple.

They look forward to learning English, enjoying the beauty of the islands and trying new things like surfing.

A few ways to help ease the pain of leaving their home.

The temple raised over $3,000 to help Marharyta and her daughters as well as other families in Ukraine, Poland and Czech Republic.

To help, visit www.honokaahongwanjibuddhisttemple.org.

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